Monthly Archives: March 2013

So what’s the Health Score really all about anyway?

Today received an email from a concerned visitor regarding a margarine product on our site. The visitor disagreed with the C- score for the product, saying it really should have been awarded an A. The comment was based on the idea that the Report Card for this margarine pointed out that it contains no fiber. It was pretty easy for that visitor to assume that, in fact, the reason for the C- score was the fact that the product lacks fiber. First, we want to make sure that our community understands that C- is really not a poor Health Score. It’s not the best, but it’s certainly far from being the worst.

We thought it was worth a blog post to address the visitor’s concerns, in case others have the same thoughts when viewing the Health Score and the Report Card for any product. In this particular food category, fiber doesn’t impact the Health Score at all. It’s not figured   in the calculations used to arrive at the rating. What the visitor missed was the inclusion of “Artificial Flavors” in the ingredient list. There are many consumers confused by “Artificial” and “Natural Flavors” and why these are considered controversial items.

“Artificial flavors” is a label that manufacturers use for chemical formulations that they aren’t required to disclose. This means that a product could contain unknown allergens, controversial ingredients and other problematic items, because manufacturers don’t have to tell us what chemicals make up these “artificial flavors.” To demonstrate why we take “artificial flavors” seriously, here is a list of what’s contained in a typical Artificial Strawberry Flavor:

Amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl acetate, ethyl amyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin, hydroxyphenyl-2-butanone (10 percent solution in alcohol), a-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, g-undecalactone, vanillin, and solvent.

That massive list is all hidden by the phrase “artificial flavors,” and consumers are left none the wiser. “Natural Flavors” are often created with the same ingredients as “artificial flavors,” but extracted or created in a way that allows manufacturers to call them “natural” when they are really anything but.

So while that margarine product lists one controversial ingredient, “Artificial Flavors”, that one phrase is actually hiding a list of others that we’ll never be aware of. When you take that ingredient into consideration and then add it to the fact that margarine is a fat, you can better understand how the C- Health Score was achieved. likes transparency. We like to know what we’re eating and we think our community should as well. The Health Score is designed to be a quick read for our community members on the overall nutritional quality of a product. It takes into consideration all applicable attributes for every product in our database. Again, C- isn’t a terrible Score. But when a product contains controversial ingredients (and “Artificial Flavors” is more than one ingredient, even though it doesn’t read that way), it loses points.

For more information on the Health Score, click here: And feel free to email us whenever you have a question regarding the information on our site! We’ll always take the time to answer your concerns.

Energy drinks can cause increases in blood pressure and heart disturbances

In the recent past, has devoted blog posts to the growing concerns surrounding energy drinks and how they affect our health. There have been concerning reports linking energy drink consumption to deaths and hospitalizations. And those reports have been on the rise. We’ve been especially concerned about how they are marketed and how attractive they seem to teenagers and children.

A new study presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions shows that energy drinks can drastically increase blood pressure and disturb the heart’s natural rhythm. The researchers out of the University of the Pacific in Stockton the David Grant Medical Center, Travis Air Force Base in California used previous data published in several different studies. They were able to illustrate the effects energy drink consumption have on the cardiovascular system.

Energy drinks contain two ingredients that affect both blood pressure and cardiovascular problems. Those ingredients are caffeine and taurine. The researchers measured something called the QT interval, which is the amount of time in the heart’s electrical cycle that reveals the heart’s rhythm. Scientists measured the QT interval of 93 people after they had consumed one to three cans of energy drinks. For each can of energy drink consumed, the participants QT interval increased by 10 milliseconds. A prolonged QT interval can be associated with life-threatening arrhythmias.

It was noted that doctors are concerned when a patient experiences an addition 30 milliseconds in their QT interval. The association between energy drinks and a prolonged QT interval —especially considering the reports of cardiac death after their consumption certainly calls for further research and investigation.

The participants blood pressure reading also increased by an average of 3.5 points. This, along with the prolonged QT interval, is cause for caution before energy drink consumption. It’s important to note that children are at a higher risk for these problems than adults. will continue to report research regarding energy drinks. Meanwhile, please approach energy drinks with caution for yourselves and your families. Help teenagers and children to be aware of the possible dangers linked to these beverages.

Stay involved in the fight against GMOs … tell grocery stores to say NO to genetically modified seafood! loves a good petition! We’re always encouraged by the impact of consumer voices on the food industry. Today we found information that we wanted to share with our community so that we all can stay involved in the fight against GMOs.

This comes from Friends of the Earth and their new petition that will tell supermarkets, food companies and restaurants to keep genetically modified seafood out of our food supply. Their new campaign has launched and we can all get involved.

Research indicates that over 90% of consumers are against the FDA allowing genetically modified fish in our food supply. The FDA, however is close to approving AquAdvantage – a salmon that’s been genetically engineered to grow faster. If they do approve this, it will be the first genetically modified animal to enter our food system. As it stands now, the fish will probably not be labeled and we won’t know what we’re actually consuming.

About 35 different species of genetically modified fish are currently in development. If the GM salmon is approved it will open the door for other genetically engineered fish and meats to enter the food supply.

This important information has spurred Friends of the Earth to ask grocery stores, seafood restaurants, chefs and seafood companies to commit to NOT source or sell GMO seafood if it comes to market. And they’re asking all of us to get involved in their efforts. Sign their petition asking companies to make this commitment and help keep genetically engineered fish out of our grocery stores and restaurants.

To date, almost a dozen major food retailers with stores nationwide have taken the Pledge for GE-Free Seafood or have otherwise stated their commitment not to knowingly purchase or sell genetically engineered salmon or seafood. These include:

Abundance Co-Op Market
Berkshire Co-Op Market
Bi-Rite Market
Davis Food Co-Op
Marsh Supermarket
Merc Co-Op
PCC Natural Markets
Sacramento Natural Foods Cooperative
Three Rivers Market
Trader Joe’s
Whole Foods
Whole Foods Co-Op

Let’s help make this list longer! encourages our community to get involved with Friends of the Earth and tell companies to say NO to genetically engineered seafood. You can find the petition here at Friends of the Earth. Let’s stay active and involved in the fight against GMOs!

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Packaged toddler meals contain unhealthy sodium levels for little ones has a wealth of information in our database regarding baby and toddler foods. We’ve kept track of these closely because of our strong beliefs in avoiding controversial ingredients and unhealthy, unbalanced nutritional content in foods. When it comes to baby and toddler foods, consumers need to be especially vigilant. That’s why we’ve recently published our own Baby & Toddler Nutrition Guide. wants to share our knowledge of these products with parents everywhere. Today we found a new study that speaks directly to our concerns about packaged toddler foods.

It appears that almost 75 percent of these foods are high in sodium. In this first-ever study looking at the sodium content in baby and toddler foods available here in the U.S., researchers compared sodium content per serving of over 1,000 baby and toddler food products. The data was compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Baby food was defined as any product intended for children under one year old and toddler food was defined as any product intended for children between the ages of one and three.

Any product containing a sodium level of more than 210 mg of sodium per serving was categorized as high in sodium. It was noted that toddler meals had significantly higher sodium levels than baby foods. Some toddler meals contained as much as 630 mg of sodium per serving. That’s about 40 percent of the 1500 mg recommended limit.

Understanding that consuming excess amounts of sodium is linked to high blood pressure, it’s quite concerning that these levels exist in readily available foods for toddlers on our grocery store shelves. It raises questions regarding the early development of high blood pressure, as well as predisposing children to a preference for salty foods that can lead to high blood pressure later in life. It’s generally felt that keeping sodium levels low in an infant’s and toddler’s diet, the less that child will be likely to look for salty foods as they grow.

The study emphasizes the importance of parents and caregivers paying close attention to nutrition labels in order to choose the healthiest foods for their children.

While is a proponent of feeding toddlers the foods you prepare yourself from scratch in your own kitchen, we realize that many parents rely on packaged foods for their little ones. The sodium levels found in this study are not good for young children. It’s important to find the toddler foods in the grocery store whose nutrition labels read differently in order to protect the future health of children everywhere. And don’t forget about the ingredient lists, either. It’s our responsibility as parents and caregivers to provide the healthiest start in life for our children.

Sugar-sweetened beverages directly linked to deaths all over the world has been keeping up to date on the subject of sugary beverages. The New York City ban on sugary drinks has been in the news consistently and has been responsible for shining a brighter spotlight on the subject. Today we found important new information that we wanted to make sure and share with our community.

New research has revealed that drinking sugary soft drinks is responsible for close to 180,000 deaths worldwide every year. The finding comes from research presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions.

We are already aware that sugary beverages are associated with increased body weight and obesity. These conditions can lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Using data published in the 2010 Global Burden of Diabetes Study, researchers found an association between the consumption of sugary drinks and 180,000 deaths around the world. 133,000 of those deaths were related to diabetes, 44,000 to cardiovascular disease and 6,000 to cancer. In the United States, data showed that about 25,000 deaths were linked to sugary beverages in 2010.

Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean had the highest number of diabetes deaths due to consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks with 38,000. Mexico had the highest rate of death due to sugary drink consumption at about 318 deaths per million.

Japan, the country that consumes the least amount of sugary drinks in the world only had 10 deaths per million linked to sugary beverage consumption.

Over the past 30 years, global consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has risen tremendously. The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and obesity has stated that sugary drinks are the number one source of calories for American Adolescents.

This study is quite a bit different than those we normally read regarding the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. And seeing a direct link between sugary drink intake and death certainly puts things in better perspective. hopes that this information receives the attention it deserves and serves as a catalyst for consumers to reconsider their beverage choices for the sake of their health and longevity.

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Infant carb intake may influence weight gain and obesity throughout life has hundreds of baby foods and beverages in our database. Throughout the years, we’ve been fairly vocal about the quality of many of the products available for babies and have recently published our own Baby & Toddler Nutrition Guide. We’ve always felt that the healthiest food choices early in life get the newest humans off to the best start as healthy individuals. Today we found a study that may have major implications for the feeding of babies.

An animal study out of the University of Buffalo has shown a link between the consumption of foods high in carbohydrates immediately after birth to weight gain and obesity throughout life. Even when caloric intake is restricted in adulthood, that adult has been predisposed to these conditions.

The researchers fed newborn rat pups milk formulas they developed that were similar to rat milk, but enriched with carbohydrate calories. The pups who were fed the high-carbohydrate milk formula were receiving a different form of nourishment than they normally would from nursing. These pups were weaned onto regular rat chow at the age of three weeks. Some were given free access to food and some were kept on a moderately calorie restricted diet. The rats who had been fed the high-carbohydrate formula who had their food intake restricted grew at a rate similar to that of pups fed by their mothers. The researchers were curious however, if that period of moderate calorie restriction caused the animals to be reprogrammed and what would occur once the animals were allowed to eat without any restriction.

It appears that the rats fed the high-carbohydrate formula do actually go through a metabolic reprogramming that can only be suppressed, not erased. When the rats were given the opportunity to eat more, they did. The effects of the high-carbohydrate formula were not permanently altered by the period of time the rats were kept on a moderate-calorie diet.

This research has implications for the obesity epidemic in the United States and speaks directly to the issue of infant nutrition. Many of the baby foods and juices available in grocery stores are high in carbohydrates. The researchers noted that the introduction of baby foods too early in life increase carbohydrate intake causing metabolic programming that predisposes children to obesity. Babies can be “programmed” to overeat at adults. The conclusion is that addressing obesity requires more than dieting – it actually requires a permanent lifestyle change. As long as calories are restricted, people can maintain a normal weight, but due to metabolic programming, their calorie consumption needs to remain restricted on a permanent basis – not simply for the length of time of a prescribed diet.

This fascinating study reminds us all that good nutrition begins at birth and that parents need to be just as concerned about the foods they are feeding their infants as they are of the foods being consumed by their toddlers and older children. is happy to see the current advice regarding solid foods beginning between the ages of 4 – 6 months being confirmed and reinforced. There are so many good reasons to follow that advice, and this research just added to the information we’ve already had regarding food allergies and intolerances. And once solid foods are started, stay vigilant regarding ingredients and the effects they can have on children everywhere. Take a look at the Baby & Toddler Nutrition Guide to find out which foods and beverages available for babies will help give them the healthiest beginning in life.

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Vitamin E may help treat and prevent cancer has always kept a close eye on the potential effects of vitamins and supplements on our health. Recently, we introduced our own line of vitamins and supplements that address the need for better-formulated products that are free from the controversial ingredients we are always addressing. You can find them at the FoodFacts TRI Nutritionals website.

Today we read some great information we wanted to share with our community about Vitamin E and its anti-cancer properties. It’s long been presumed that this vitamin could prevent cancer, in fact many animal studies have suggested the idea. However, human clinical trials that were conducted to follow up on those findings did not illustrate the same benefits.

A new study out of Ohio State University and Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center have now shown that Vitamin E can, in fact, have some benefit in cancer prevention and treatment. Researchers showed that in prostate cancer cells, one form of Vitamin E inhibits the activation of an enzyme (the Akt enzyme) that must be present in order for cancer cells to survive.

The study points out that a readily available Vitamin E supplement won’t do the trick. Affordable Vitamin E supplements are  based on a vitamin form that didn’t fight cancer as effectively in the study. In addition, the human body can’t absorb the high dose of a typical supplement that would be required to achieve the anti-cancer effect demonstrated.

The most commonly known form of Vitamin E is a variety called tocopherols. Researchers were able to show that a specific form of tocopherol is the most potent anti-cancer form of the vitamin. The scientists manipulated the structure of the Vitamin E molecule and found that the new substance created was able to reduce the size of prostate tumors in mice. Effectively it was able to shut off the Akt enzyme. Mice with prostate cancer who were injected with the agent created by the scientists experienced suppressed tumor growth when compared to those mice injected with a placebo which had no effect on tumor growth. Chemical analysis of the treated tumors showed that the Akt enzyme signal was suppressed. The animal study also suggested the experimental agent was not toxic.

These findings suggest that an agent based on the chemical structure of one form of vitamin E could help prevent and treat numerous types of cancer. It was noted that this is a new finding. While other benefits of Vitamin E have been known for years, no one knew about the specific anti-cancer benefits of this specific form of the vitamin. The researchers are continuing to work on the Vitamin E formulation that they have developed. hopes to report further information in the future regarding the work of these researchers. We look forward to the day that Vitamin E may become a treatment for cancer that will present patients with non-toxic, more natural options in fighting their disease.

There’s more information here:

Olive Oil the fat that makes you feel full understands that there are millions of consumers who gravitate towards reduced-fat food products. Generally, people feel like these products are better choices for their health and their weight. Especially with the skyrocketing rates of obesity, those “light”, low-fat products appear to be healthier than their full-fat counterparts. Unfortunately for the folks that are eating these products, we know that people will eat more because the products themselves don’t help those folks achieve a “full” feeling after eating a regular serving size. A new study seems to point out one of the reasons this is true.
It appears that natural oils and fats regulate the sensation of feeling full after eating – most especially olive oil.

Work groups at Technische Universität München (TUM) under Prof. Peter Schieberle and at the University of Vienna under Prof. Veronika Somoza studied four different edible fats and oils: Lard, butterfat, rapeseed oil and olive oil. Over a period of three months, the study participants ate 500 grams of low-fat yogurt enriched with one of the four fats or oils every day — as a supplement to their normal diet.

It was reported that olive oil had the biggest effect on satiety. The group consuming low-fat yogurt with olive oil showed a higher level of serotonin in their blood. This is the hormone responsible for the feeling of being satiated. These particular participants reported that they found the olive oil enriched yogurt very to be very filling. During the study period, no member of that group recorded an increase in their body fat or their weight.

The researchers were surprised by the findings. Rapeseed oil and olive oil contain similar fatty acids. So the scientists decided to look more closely at the aroma compounds in olive oil. For this they gave one group of participants yogurt with olive oil aroma extracts while another group was given plain yogurt.

The results were conclusive: The olive oil group’s calorie intake remained the same, but the control group had been consuming an extra 176 calories per day. The researchers explained that the group consuming the yogurt enhanced with the olive oil aroma extracts adapted their eating habits, while the other group could not do the same thing. The second group also had less of the hormone serotonin in their blood.

Blood sugar level plays a major role in how the feeling of fullness will last after eating. The faster the blood sugar level falls, the sooner the person will begin to feel hungry again. This is due to the absorption of glucose in the blood. So, the next thing the researchers studied was which of the aroma substances present in oils are most effective at inhibiting glucose absorption.

The researchers used olive oils from Spain, Greece, Italy and Australia for their study. The research team managed to identify two substances that reduce the absorption of glucose from the blood in liver cells: Hexanal and E2-Hexenal. They also discovered that Italian olive oil contained larger amounts of the two aroma compounds. hopes that this fascinating research will be expanded on, and perhaps manufacturers create healthier products for the population in the future.

Black tea drinkers may have a reduced risk of stroke really enjoys a good cup of tea! We’ve always been big proponents of the health benefits of tea drinking and have long been interested in the newest findings about those benefits. We regularly hear news about green tea … but today we want to talk about some recent research regarding black tea.

This study out of the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden has illustrated that black tea drinkers were over 21 percent less likely to experience a stroke when compared with those who did not drink black tea.

The study examined data from over 70,000 men and women without any cardiovascular disease beginning in 1997. This population was followed for up to ten years, until December of 2008. During the study period, 4089 people experienced a stroke for the first time. The researchers considered potential risk factors for stroke in looking at the group as a whole. Even with those factors considered, it was found that high black tea consumption resulted in a significantly lower stroke risk. Specifically, those involved in the study who drank four or more cups of tea every day had a 21 percent lower risk of stroke than those who did not drink any tea at all.

The study strongly suggests that drinking four or more cups of black tea a day can reduce stroke risk. While this is great news for black tea drinkers, further study will be needed to determine definitively that tea drinking itself is responsible for this reduced risk. It is possible that those who consume four or more cups of tea each day have healthier habits than those who don’t. is aware of other health benefits associated with tea drinking. This is just another great reason to relax, slow down and enjoy the warmth of some black tea. While we understand further study is needed to prove these findings conclusively, we love the idea that the simple act of drinking black tea might possibly reduce stroke risk for us all!

Consumers mistakenly link the color green on food labels with healthier choices

Marketing tactics actually work. is always watching and learning how consumers can be led to believe whatever food manufacturers want them to through the simple use of marketing tactics. We’ve discussed this phenomenon often on our blog and our Facebook page. Words like “natural”, “healthy”, “whole grain”, and “multi-grain” often dissuade consumers from reading ingredient lists and fully understanding the products they purchase. Foods marketed to kids often employ the use of a cute, colorful cartoon character that “speaks” directly to them. The list goes on and on.

Today we came across some fascinating research regarding food product marketing. Specifically, the research took a look at the use of a green calorie label appearing on the front of packaging. It appears that this study out of Cornell University has discovered that consumers are more likely to think that a food is healthy if it carries a green calorie label as opposed to a red one … even if the calorie count is exactly the same. It appears that consumers associate the green label with healthfulness – especially among those consumers who place high value on healthy eating.

93 university students were asked to imagine that they were hungry and they see a candy bar while waiting on a grocery checkout line. The students were shown an image of a candy bar with either a red or a green calorie label. They were asked whether the candy bar with the green label contained a greater or lesser number of calories than the candy bar with the red label and how healthy it was in comparison. The students consistently perceived the candy bar with the green label as healthier than the bar with the red label, even though the calorie count was exactly the same.

The experiment was repeated with almost 40 online participants. These consumers were shown images of candy with green or white labels. They were asked how important health was as a factor in their food purchasing decisions. The more importance the participants placed on health as a decision-making factor in food purchases, the more they perceived the green-labeled candy bar as healthier to eat.

Front-of-package labeling has become increasingly popular as a way to attract consumers with a desirable calorie count in the foods they are purchasing. These labels are designed to be conspicuous, especially at point of purchase. And they are especially prevalent on candies and other sugary snacks. The research suggests that the color of the label may have more of an effect on the consumer’s perception than the actual information the label is attempting to convey. This has tremendous implications for food labeling and suggests that the FDA might serve the public well be instituting a uniform front-of-package labeling system. can actually understand how consumers may automatically relate the color green with healthier food choices. These days, everything good is “green”. We have green cleaning products, green fabrics, green paper products, etc. All of these are designed to be better for our environment. And we relate the word “green” with better products because of that. But that association is carrying over to food labeling, when it really shouldn’t be the case. Let’s remember that not all green is clean and good for us – especially when it comes to front-of-package labeling in our food supply. Just because the label is green, doesn’t mean we should really consider the product healthy.
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