Monthly Archives: April 2013

Mediterranean Diet linked to memory preservation and cognitive function

FoodFacts.com’s main focus and mission has always been to educate consumers on the relationship between our diets and our health. With so many controversial ingredients present in our food supply, as well as unhealthy amounts of added sugar and sodium levels, consumers need straight answers and unbiased information on developing the dietary habits that will help them live longer, healthier lives.

So just how should we be eating? While there are a plethora of opinions on different dietary habits, the Mediterranean diet and its health benefits always seems to find its way into the news through continuing research. Today we found a study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Athens, Greece linking the Mediterranean diet to the preservation of memory and cognitive abilities.

The researchers collected data from the REGARDS study (Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke). This study included data on over 30,000 people over 45 years of age between 2003 and 2007. Participants were followed up on regularly to record health changes. Among these participants, over 14,000 Caucasians and African-Americans who followed the Mediterranean diet were examined. The average age for this sub-group was 64. They were given tests to measure their memory and cognitive abilities over a period of four years. Seventeen percent of them had diabetes.

It was found that among those without diabetes who followed the Mediterranean diet most closely, the risk of memory problems and declining cognitive ability was lower by 19% in comparison to the rest of the population of the subgroup. In addition, the differences in declines among Caucasians and African-Americans was not statistically significant. The presence of diabetes seemed to hinder the effects of the Mediterranean diet as no benefit was realized amongst those participants who had the disease.

The researchers noted that diets high in omega-3 fatty acids are linked to better memory and cognitive functioning. The Mediterranean diet is rich in foods containing omega-3 fatty acids.

Prior studies have pointed out many other health benefits of the Mediterranean diet … some of which linked it to increased mental health, as well as brain health, as it appears to reduce damage to small blood vessels.

The Mediterranean diet incorporates the dietary patterns traditionally found in Southern Italy, Greece and Spain. It includes the consumption of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, and vegetables, moderate to high consumption of fish, moderate consumption of dairy products, moderate wine consumption, and low consumption of meat and meat products.

FoodFacts.com feels that the Mediterranean diet has shown so many potential benefits that it’s something to be seriously considered. This relatively simple style of eating is a fairly easy transition for most consumers who are already focused on the consumption of fresh, whole foods. Its benefits continue to unfold and we’re sure that this isn’t the last of the good news that we’ll hear regarding its advantages.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/259793.php

More good news about green tea

FoodFacts.com is always following news regarding the benefits of tea. That’s probably because so many of us here enjoy sitting down to a relaxing cup of hot tea and it’s always a good thing to find that natural foods and beverages can have tangible benefits for our health and well being.

Today we found a new study out of the Keimyung University School of Medicine in the Republic of Korea that has shown evidence that an extract from green tea may be an effective remedy for weight control and may help regulate glucose in type 2 diabetes.

Components of green tea, which have been shown to inhibit intestinal glucose and lipid uptake, are a certain type of flavonoid called gallated catechins.

Researchers tested the effects of green tea extract on body weight and glucose intolerance in both diabetic mice and normal mice who were fed a high-fat diet. To prevent a high dose of gallated catechins from reaching the bloodstream, the authors also used a non-toxic resin, polyethylene glycol, to bind the gallated catechins in the gut to prevent their absorption. They then looked at the effects on the mice of eating green tea extract alone, and eating green tea extract plus polyethylene glycol. They then compared these against the effects of two drugs traditionally prescribed for type 2 diabetes.

Results showed that green tea extract on its own did not have any influence on body weight and glucose intolerance. However, when green tea extract was given with polyethylene glycol, there was a significant reduction in body weight gain, insulin resistance and glucose intolerance in both normal mice on a high fat diet and diabetic mice. The polyethylene glycol had the effect of prolonging the amount of time the gallated catechins remained in the intestines, thereby limiting glucose absorption for a longer period.

What was most interesting was that the effect of the green tea extract were apparent at doses that could easily be achieved by drinking green tea on a daily basis. Even more exciting was the fact that the green tea effects were comparable to those of the two currently prescribed drugs for non-insulin dependent diabetes. Researchers are hopeful that the green tea extract and polyethylene glycol combination may, in fact, present a better option for the prevention and treatment of obesity and obesity-related diabetes.

FoodFacts.com will continue to follow any new information that is released regarding green tea and its benefits. “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates was definitely on to something!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130429114739.htm

More news on the sugary beverage debate … drinking even one 12-Ounce sugar-sweetened soft drink a day can increase your risk for Type 2 Diabetes

FoodFacts.com listens to a lot of consumers say things like “I don’t drink that much soda, maybe I have one every day.” There’s been a lot of debate recently surrounding the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. The attempt by the New York City mayor to ban the sale of large-sized sugar-sweetened beverages in an effort to curb the obesity crisis raised all sorts of arguments both for and against his proposition. Some of the recent research into the effects of those beverages may lead some to believe that he really had a point.

Today we found just that sort of research and wanted to share it with you. A new study out of the Imperial Collage in London, England has shown that for every 12 oz. serving of a sugar-sweetened soft drink each day, the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes increases by about 22%. So if you have one sugar-sweetened soda at lunch, your risk increases by 22% and then if you have another one later at dinner that same day, your risk increases by another 22%. That’s quite substantial.

Most of the research that has been conducted on the effects of sugar-sweetened beverages comes from populations in North America. The study sought to establish whether there is a link between sugary-beverage consumption and Type 2 Diabetes in Europe. They used data on consumption of juices, nectars, sugar-sweetened soft drinks and artificially sweetened soft drinks that had been collected from eight European countries participating in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. This included about 350,000 participants.

The researchers study included 12,403 type 2 diabetes cases and a random sub-cohort of 16,154 identified within the larger European study. They found that, after adjusting for confounding factors, consumption of one 12oz serving size of sugar-sweetened soft drink per day increased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 22%.

The authors also discovered a significant increase in Type 2 Diabetes as it relates to the consumption of artificially sweetened soft drinks. When the BMI of the participants was taken into account, however, this association disappeared, indicating that the participants weight was driving the increase. The consumption of fruit juices and nectars was not linked to an increase for Type 2 Diabetes. The researchers noted that their findings are similar to the results of studies conducted in North America.

Knowing that this research confirms the results of many studies conducted across North America does motivate us here at FoodFacts.com to get behind efforts to curb the consumption of sugary-beverages. We understand that there are many different ways to accomplish this large undertaking. Our belief, as always, is that education is the first, best step to incite change. We do that every day with our website and hope to see more efforts to educate consumers on the importance of eliminating sugar-sweetened soft drinks from their diets.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130424185205.htm

Caffeine may have an effect on cognitive performance for kids … and how we all perceive the flavor of foods

FoodFacts.com has found some positive information for the moderate consumption of caffeine during the past year. At the same time, we’ve kept our community up-to-date on its negative effects as well – especially when it comes to energy drinks and our children. Whether it’s coffee, tea, soda or those energy drinks, our kids are consuming more of it. Since 1977, there has been a 70% increase in caffeine consumption for children and adolescents.

There have been many studies that link caffeine to improved cognitive performance for certain tasks. A new study out of the University of Buffalo has recently focused on caffeine’s effects on the cognitive behavior of children and teenagers. The study investigated whether male and female children perform differently on five separate tasks in response to caffeine.

96 children and adolescents participated in the study. Researchers measured developmental and gender differences in the participants who were either given caffeine or a placebo and then participated in memory tests, reaction time tests and color-word tasks. The group consuming caffeine performed better in all of the testing scenarios. They all had an increased number of correct responses in the memory tests. And the females had more correct responses than the males in the reaction time tests and color-word tasks. The results suggest that caffeine can have a different effect in females because of circulating steroid hormones.

In addition to this study regarding the consumption of caffeine in children, researchers also investigated whether pairing a flavored food with caffeine would enhance likeability of the food consumed. Sometimes that muffin or bagel just doesn’t taste the same in the morning without a cup of coffee. There may be a reason why.

Researchers tested whether a caffeinated beverage paired with an unusually flavored yogurt would enhance the perceived flavor of that yogurt when compared with a placebo.
For this test, 68 men and women between the ages of 18 and 50 randomly received a caffeinated beverage or a placebo. They then consumed a low energy density yogurt or a high energy density yogurt. The flavors of yogurt used for this test were not typical flavors and included things like almond, maple, peppermint and cumin.

Participants rated and ranked seven different flavors of yogurt over a four day period. Flavor preferences increased over those four days with the yogurt paired with caffeine consistently ranked higher in flavor than the same yogurts paired with a placebo.

Researchers want to repeat the experiment with fruits and vegetables to determine whether caffeinated beverages could increase the affinity for these important foods, and perhaps encourage increased consumption.

Improved cognitive performance for kids. Better taste perception of unusual flavors. FoodFacts.com loves the idea that, enjoyed in moderation, that cup of coffee most of us enjoy so much can actually have some health benefits!

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/259521.php

It’s all about the serving size …

FoodFacts.com does our best to stay on top of the news regarding the obesity epidemic that’s become such a concern – not only for our own country, but countries around the world. Every new research study that’s published that brings a greater understanding of how and why we’ve become so prone to weight gain offers valuable insights into how the problem can be corrected. We are confident that this will lead to healthier lives for our population.

Today we found new information out of the University of New South Wales, Australia regarding the effects of larger serving sizes on our eating habits. It appears that people who were taught how to engage in mindful (as opposed to mindless) eating were still prone to eat much more food than those who were presented with smaller serving sizes who were not educated at all in regards to mindful eating.

The study included 96 female participants and is the first to examine how educating people about mindful eating would affect eating habits. The women were randomly selected to be served one of two portion sizes of macaroni with tomato sauce for lunch. The large portion was 600 grams and the smaller portion was 350 grams.

Half of the women in each group were given information regarding mindful eating – a brochure about how external factors, including portion size, social and cultural influences, advertising and mood can contribute to overeating. They were asked to write about how these factors may have affected their own eating habits in the past. They were then taught how to concentrate on internal sensations like hunger and fullness, in addition to the flavor of the foods they consume before they were given their lunch.

As it turns out, the women who were served a larger portion size consumed about a third more pasta than those served the smaller portion size. The exercises some of the women engaged in regarding mindful eating did not affect their consumption. Participants in the larger portion group consumed 87 more calories than those presented with the smaller serving of pasta.

Experts believe that portion sizes both at home and in restaurants have contributed to the obesity epidemic. Portion sizes have increased considerably at the same time that obesity rates have risen. In addition, hunger and taste are felt to have little to do with our increased levels of food consumption.

FoodFacts.com feels that this study makes a great deal of sense. We live in a “super-sized” society, where the concept of more is better has embedded itself in our eating habits. Every day we are presented with extra-large cups of coffee, quarter-pound burgers, 16 ounce steaks, 32 ounce sodas, large-sized fries … the list can go on and on. We don’t view our portion sizes realistically because our view of a normal serving size has been altered. And we eat most of what we see placed before us. So if the portion is that much bigger – even if we aren’t cleaning our plates – we’re still consuming more than is considered healthy. Perhaps if we can all stay more aware of those larger portions, we can make the healthier choice. Perhaps in today’s society, we shouldn’t be encouraging anyone to become a member of the clean plate club. Food for thought.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/259413.php

Soybeans discovered to have anti-cancer properties

FoodFacts.com is always a big fan of information pointing to foods as possible treatments for serious disease. Natural treatments for chronic, sometimes deadly conditions could help millions of people worldwide and save them from traditional, often painful and debilitating treatments that sometimes have limited results.

A recent study from University of Arkansas researchers points to the possibility that soybeans show potential as a treatment for cancer. It appears that proteins found in soybeans may have the ability to block the growth and development of lung, liver and colon cancer tumors. The peptides derived from soybean meal have shown to inhibit cancer cell growth.

Soybean meal is a bi-product from the oil extraction of soybean seeds. Proteins make up about 40 percent of the nutritional components of the seeds and can also contain high amounts of a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid.

The researchers looked at the role soybeans could have in the prevention of cancer. They used a variety of soybean lines which were high in oleic acid and protein and monitored the activity between the peptides derived from the soybean meal and various types of human cancer.

The study showed that peptides derived from soybean meal inhibited cell growth by 73% for colon cancer, 70% for liver cancer and 68% for lung cancer cells using human cell lines. This suggests that certain soybean lines could have a potential nutraceutical affect in helping to reduce the growth of several types of cancer cells.

FoodFacts.com will follow this information and keep our community informed of other research done to further these results. These exciting new findings raise hope that those afflicted with these cancers can someday receive treatments that are not only more natural and kind to the body, but also more effective in fighting their disease.

Read more: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130320095033.htm

Smaller serving pieces of fruit can help kids consume their recommended daily requirements!

Most of us here at FoodFacts.com love biting into a big, juicy apple, or peeling an orange and enjoying the whole fruit – the same holds true for pears, and bananas. It really hadn’t occurred to us that there might be kids all over the country who are turned off to eating fruit based on the simple concept that bite-sized pieces are more appealing to them.

A new study from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab takes a closer look at why children are avoiding fruit in the school cafeteria line and if, perhaps, that “ready-to-eat”, no additional work required appearance could, in fact, encourage kids to consume more fruit. While most believe that children avoid fruit because of the taste and the competition fruit faces from packaged snacks, the researchers wanted to dig deeper and see if there were really other reasons for kids to pass fruit up in their school cafeterias.

The researchers designed a pilot study that included eight elementary schools within the same district. First, they gave each school a commercial food slicer and instructed cafeteria personnel to use it when a child requested an apple. The fruit slicer cut the apple into six pieces and took between three and four seconds to use on each apple. Initial results of the pilot study showed that fruit sales increased by an average of 61% when the apples were sliced for the kids. They then interviewed the students and found out that they disliked eating fruit in school for two main reasons. The first was that for the younger kids, who might be wearing braces or be missing a few teeth, a whole fruit was inconvenient to eat. Older girls stated that they felt they looked unattractive eating a whole fruit in front of other kids and were self conscious about it. The sliced fruit solved both these issues for the children.

The researchers then expanded the pilot study to confirm the initial findings by adding six middle schools in the same district. Three of the six were given the fruit slicers while the others continued normal cafeteria operations, acting as a control. The fruit slices were placed in cups in two of the three schools and on a try in the third school. To accurately access actual consumption, field researchers were assigned to every school to record how much of the apple was wasted by counting the number of slices thrown away by each student.

These results showed that sales of apples in the schools using the fruit slicers increased by 71% compared to the control schools selling the whole fruit. Most importantly, researchers found that the percentage of students who ate more than half of the apple they purchased increased by 73%.

This pilot study showed that, in fact, taste and competition from processed snacks may not be the reason kids aren’t consuming fruit in school. When the fruit was made easier to eat, more kids were purchasing it and, most importantly, more of them were eating more of it. So for a small investment ($200 for the slicers) kids were encouraged to make healthier choices and waste less of the choices they made.

What a great, simple idea! FoodFacts.com hopes that this study gets the recognition it deserves from school districts all over the country. We wonder if these researchers are actually on to something for adults as well.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130417165007.htm

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the American meat supply

FoodFacts.com stays as up-to-date as possible regarding the issues that we face in our food supply. Whether it’s product recalls, toxic heavy metals, or any other contaminant, we want to make sure that our community is well-informed about any of the variety of dangers lurking in our foods.

Today we read a fascinating article that raises questions regarding the safety of our meats. A large proportion of American meat is contaminated with superbugs – antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to an Environmental Working Group analysis of recently released government tests.

The latest federal report published last year found that 81 percent of ground turkey, 55 percent of ground beef and 39 percent of chicken parts were contaminated with antibiotic-resistant microbes. These are the germs that are responsible for countless numbers of cases of infection and food poisoning. The ability these germs have acquired to resist antibiotics make the illnesses they are responsible for more difficult to treat and, in some cases, those illnesses are lethal.

Experts attribute the development of antibiotic-resistant microbes to the extensive overuse of antibiotics in livestock farming. Meat producers regularly give their livestock antibiotics to promote growth or to treat infections. It is thought that about 80% of pharmaceuticals sold in the U.S. are sold specifically for meat production.

The FDA can help to stop the rise of antibiotic resistant superbugs by stopping the overuse of these pharmaceuticals. In addition, the overcrowding of livestock has an adverse affect on animal health. The need for excessive antibiotics could be reversed by allowing for increased space for livestock on farms. These efforts could have a great affect on the existence of antibiotic-resistant germs in our meat supply.

It has been shown that there are strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria that have jumped from animals to humans, making the findings of this recent study even more concerning.

FoodFacts.com will continue to follow information on this important story as it develops. As always, we will keep our community informed and educated on the issues they face daily regarding the safety of our food supply.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/259206.php

Are Girl Scout Cookies “doing a good turn” for American consumers?

FoodFacts.com has a question for our community … can you tell us what Partially Hydrogenated Oils, Artificial Flavors, Natural Flavors, Caramel Color, Sorbitol, Carrageenan and GMO ingredients have in common with Samoas, Tagalongs, Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos and Dulce De Leches?

If your answer was these are the controversial ingredients found in our favorite Girl Scout Cookies, you were, sadly, 100% correct. And FoodFacts.com wanted to highlight that some of our favorite, traditional cookies from our nation’s premier non-profit organization for girls has some serious work to do to bring their branded cookies up to date with their decades’ old and admirable values.

Since 1912, the Girl Scouts’ slogan has been “Do a good turn daily.” The slogan is to stand as a reminder of the many ways girls can contribute positively to the lives of others. FoodFacts.com understands how the Girl Scouts shapes the lives of girls in our country positively, year after year. We just think that as an organization they should embody their own slogan and “Do a good turn daily” in the lives of others by insisting on the improvement of the ingredient lists on the cookie products that carry their logo.

During the first quarter of 2012, the Girl Scouts of the USA generated over $700 million in cookie sales. That’s enough cookies to make the non-profit the number three cookie company in the U.S. It’s a very impressive statistic and translates into the consumption of millions of Samoas (Caramel deLites), Tagalongs (Peanut Butter Patties) and Thin Mints. Depending on your location in the U.S., the Girl Scout Cookies you purchase are baked by either Little Brownie Bakers (a subsidiary of Keebler which is owned by Kellogg’s) or ABC Bakers (owned by George Weston Limited). Both companies are licensed by the Girl Scouts to produce the 11 varieties of cookies currently available (according to the Girl Scout Cookie website). The bakers can use different names for the cookies and there is no attempt to standardize the names between the bakeries at this juncture.

Unfortunately, the Girl Scouts organization has been petitioned a few times by concerned consumers regarding the ingredients their bakers are including in their branded cookies. They were urged to address the use of Hydrogenated Oils. Consumers have suggested that the use of Hydrogenated Oils (as well as other controversial items) is in direct conflict with the Girl Scouts efforts to promote a healthy lifestyle among their young members. In 2007, the Girl Scouts of the USA announced that all their cookies had less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving, which allowed them to meet the FDA requirements for “zero trans fat” labeling. While that’s an improvement, it certainly doesn’t change the idea that there are many, many consumers who aren’t stopping at one serving.

Artificial and Natural Flavors, as well as Caramel Color, Sorbitol and Carrageenan are common on many of the ingredient lists. In addition, consumers have petitioned the Girl Scouts to remove Genetically Modified ingredients from their cookies.

You can review the ingredient information and nutritional content for some of the most popular cookie varieties on our website. Click through for Samoas, Tagalongs and Thin Mints:

http://www.foodfacts.com/ci/nutritionfacts/Coconut-Cookies/Girl-Scout-Cookies-Samoas-715/86461
http://www.foodfacts.com/ci/nutritionfacts/Other-Cookies/Girl-Scout-Tagalongs-Cookies-15-cookies/86462
http://www.foodfacts.com/ci/nutritionfacts/Chocolate-Flavored-Cookies/Girl-Scout-Cookies-Thin-Mints-8-oz/86460

FoodFacts.com believes in the mission of the Girl Scouts of the USA. We understand that they empower girls from a young age to be responsible, accountable citizens ready to take their place as productive adults in our society. And we are all for the idea of helping girls across our nation understand the importance of being willing to serve and do a job well. We also really love buying Girl Scout Cookies to help raise funds for this very worthy organization. But, we’d also love to see that organization take its own words to heart and improve the quality of the ingredients chosen for the cookies so many Americans are consuming each and every year.

Imported rice containing high levels of lead causes concern for consumers

A few months back, FoodFacts.com reported on the concerns surrounding arsenic levels in our rice. As if that wasn’t concerning enough, today we came across new information that we wanted to make sure to share with our community. We can now add lead levels to our concerns regarding our rice supply.

It appears that some of the rice imported into the United states contain high levels of lead. The study coming out of Monmouth University was presented at an American Chemical Society meeting in New Orleans this week. Researchers have found that consumers are being exposed to much higher than acceptable amounts of lead through the consumption of imported rice. Imported rice accounts for about 7% of the rice consumed in this country.

Disturbingly, Tsanangurayi Tongesayi, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Monmouth says that the researchers found some of the highest levels of lead in baby food.

Lead is a neurotoxin: it damages the brain, and in young children whose brains are still growing, it can seriously diminish their capacity to learn and develop intellectually. There is also evidence that it can disrupt children’s behavior, such as make them more aggressive, impulsive and hyperactive. Lead also increases blood pressure and causes cardiovascular disease in adults. It can cause calcium deficiencies and cause anemia.

The researchers noted that agriculture, mining and chemical industry is putting an increased level of toxic heavy metals like lead into the food supply.

While the United States is a large producer and exporter of rice, we also import the grain. Current estimates place imported rice at about 7% of total U.S. consumption. Americans consume a little over 4 million metric tons of rice each year – about 31 pounds per person. And that figure is growing as our population increases and as we become a more diverse society. Asian and Hispanic communities consume more rice than other ethnicities in our country. In addition, the introduction of new rice-based products is on the rise.

The highest lead levels in rice was reported to be imported from Taiwan and China. Rice from Italy, India, Thailand, the Czech Republic and Bhutan also contained high lead levels.
Brazil and Pakistan were still being analyzed, so they weren’t able to report on those.

The study shows that for adults, the daily lead exposure levels from eating imported rice are about 20 to 40 times higher than the FDA’s acceptable levels.

For infants and children, the daily exposure levels would be about 30 to 60 times higher. This is especially concerning considering that infants and children are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead poisoning.

FoodFacts.com wants to encourage everyone in our community to be as vigilant as possible in understanding the origin of the rice products you purchase. Reading labels is always our responsibility and becomes even more important when reports such as this surface. We will continue to look for information regarding this research and keep you up to date as we learn more about this important news.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/259063.php