Monthly Archives: July 2013

The sugary beverage debate continues … would taxing sugar-sweetened drinks help the obesity crisis?

Yesterday, FoodFacts.com noted that the New York State Supreme Court upheld the ruling against the mayor’s proposed ban on sugar-sweetened beverages. The court’s four-judge panel was unanimous in its decision that the New York Board of Health and Mental Hygiene “violated the state principle of separation of powers” with the proposed ban. Many other states were waiting on the Court’s decision with great interest, as their legislatures pondered the introduction of similar bans. The hope for legislation like this is that it would eventually have a positive effect on curtailing and perhaps, even reversing the obesity crisis.

So now that New York won’t be banning the sale of large-sized sugar-sweetened beverages, there are other courses of action for the government to consider – one of them being a federal tax on sugary beverages. Today we learned of a joint study from researchers at RTI International, Duke University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, exploring such a tax.

The study, published online in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, found that a half-cent per ounce increase in sugar-sweetened beverage prices, which adds up to about ten cents on a typical 20-ounce bottle of soda, could reduce total calories from the 23 foods and beverages examined under the study. Unfortunately, researchers also found that a reduction in consumption of sugary beverages due to a tax would most likely lead consumers to substitute those beverage calories by increasing their calorie, salt and fat intake from untaxed foods and beverages.

To conduct the study, researchers used data on household food purchases from the 2006 Nielsen Homescan panel, a large national consumer panel maintained by the Nielsen Company. Families in the panel are provided with a handheld scanner and instructed to scan the Universal Product Code (UPC) of products they purchased at retail outlets, record purchase quantities and coupons used and identify the retailer that the product was purchased from. Researchers noted that while levying a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages may seem similar to using taxes to curb smoking habits in the population, it isn’t the same thing. In the case of beverages, consumers can simply substitute an untaxed food item for the taxed beverage. It’s also important to consider that there are many other ways to promote healthy eating and reduce nutrition-related chronic disease.

FoodFacts.com thinks that this study, and others like it, are interesting food for thought regarding our country’s approach to tackling the obesity crisis. Bans on large-sized sugar-sweetened beverages and taxes on sugary drinks might serve to curb the excessive sugar consumption that’s rampant in our population. What it doesn’t serve to do is to recognize the other end of that same problem. The foods and beverages will still be out there on our grocery shelves, in our fast food chains and our smaller food retailers. And those foods and beverages will still contain the excessive amounts of sugar that they contain now. Until processed food products contain less added sugars, we’ll still have a problem in the population, even if proposed regulations might make the problem a little smaller. Educating consumers and promoting nutritional awareness is still the best method of empowering the population and creating real, positive change. Let’s all continue to share our awareness within our own networks. We can all play an important role in reversing the worldwide trend of obesity.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130730123106.htm

Are you getting enough Vitamin D?

FoodFacts.com has been reporting on new research concerning Vitamin D deficiencies consistently throughout the last year. It appears that many in our population haven’t been aware that they aren’t getting enough of the sunshine vitamin and deficiencies are more common than previously thought.

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to our bone health and the risk of fracture based on low calcium intake and reduced bone density. Now a new study conducted by a team of U.S. and German scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California Berkeley is illustrating that the bone-aging process can be significantly accelerated because of Vitamin D deficiency. In fact, it appears that this vitamin deficiency actually reduces bone quality.

Researchers noted that it had always been assumed that the main problem with Vitamin D deficiency is the reduction of mineralization that aids in the creation of new bone mass. What the study shows is that low levels of Vitamin D induce premature aging of existing bone. They are hopeful that studies like this will help science develop ways to prevent or treat fractures in patients with deficiencies.

Vitamin-D is essential for the body to absorb calcium. The body normally synthesizes vitamin D in the skin following exposure to sunlight. That’s how Vitamin D got its famous nickname. However, when vitamin D is deficient, the body will remove calcium from bone to maintain normal calcium blood levels. The reduction of calcium in the existing bone disturbs the mineralization process that’s required for the formation of new bone mass. In children, vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets. In adults, vitamin D deficiency causes osteomalacia, a softening of the bones that results in bone pain, muscle weakness and the risk of deformation and fracture.

The scientists hypothesized that restoring the normal level of Vitamin D would correct the mineralization process. To test this hypothesis, the team collected bone samples from 30 participants, half of whom were deficient in vitamin D and showed early signs of osteomalacia. While vitamin D-deficient subjects had less overall mineralization due to a reduction of mineralized bone, underneath the new non-mineralized surfaces, the existing bone was actually more heavily mineralized, and displayed the characteristics of older and more brittle bone. The areas of mineralized bone were surrounded by a boundary that stopped them from being remodeled. So the isolated sections of mineralized bones began to age. They determined that Vitamin D deficiency increased the possibility of fracture by between 22 and 31 percent.

This study, along with many other recent findings regarding the importance of Vitamin D encourage us all to get out in the sun and include food sources of this important vitamin in our diets. FoodFacts.com knows our community is aware that fortified milk, orange juice and yogurt are easy ways to get more Vitamin D. In addition, eggs, tuna, swordfish, salmon and sardines are a few more dietary sources. Our bone health is important to our well-being as we age. Let’s all make sure we do everything we can to make sure that we stand straight and tall, supported by our healthy bones throughout our lives.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/263232.php

EFSA reports that food is the main source of BPA exposure

FoodFacts.com knows that our community is educated about and very aware of the presence of BPA in plastics and canned food products. BPA (Bisphenol A) is used to make certain plastics and epoxy resins. It’s been used commercially since 1957 and is commonly used in manufacturing water bottles, sports equipment, CDs, DVDs and the lining of water pipes. It’s also used in the production of thermal paper. And it still coats the inside of many food and beverage cans.

BPA has been found to exhibit hormone-like properties at high levels. There has been great concern regarding its use in both consumer products and food packaging. A 2010 FDA report identified possible dangers to fetuses, infants and young children related to BPA exposure. In 2012, the FDA officially banned the use of BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups and infant formula packaging. Since, that time many manufacturers have begun using BPA-free cans, but unfortunately more manufacturers are still using packaging that includes BPA.

Earlier this month, The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reported that its scientific experts have concluded that for all population groups, diet is the major source of exposure to bisphenol A (BPA). EFSA added that consumers’ exposure to BPA is considerably lower than the agency had estimated in 2006—about 30 times lower for infants, and approximately 11 times lower for adults. It was noted that scientists found dietary exposure to BPA to be the highest among children aged three to 10 (explainable by their higher food consumption on a body weight basis). Canned food and non-canned meat and meat products were identified as the major source of BPA exposure for all age groups.

This new report was the EFSA’s first review of BPA exposure since 2006 and the first time that the report covered both dietary and non-dietary sources (including thermal paper and environmental sources).

The American Chemistry Council commented on the new report from the EFSA. The Council stated that this information reaffirms that the levels of BPA exposure from all sources are very low and well within safe levels established by government regulators for infants, children and adults. They reiterate that major government agencies worldwide, including our own FDA, have determined that BPA is safe as it is currently used.

While the EFSA is standing by the safety of BPA and the U.S. FDA has reiterated its safety, many consumers are uncomfortable using food products whose packaging contains the chemical. FoodFacts.com knows that many in our community actively seek out products from brands who have stated that they are now only using BPA-free packaging. Based on the report from the EFSA and the comments from the American Chemistry Council, it does appear that we will have to continue to proactively ensure that the food products we purchase are free of BPA. Government agencies aren’t looking to restrict the use of the chemical any further than they already have. We’ll continue to report on any further developments regarding BPA in our food packaging. In the meantime, our own awareness is our best defense against the chemicals in our food supply we seek to avoid.

http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/news/efsa-food-is-the-main-source-of-bpa-exposure-for-consumers/
http://www.americanchemistry.com/Media/PressReleasesTranscripts/ACC-news-releases/EFSA-Draft-Opinion-Finds-BPA-Exposure-Levels-Lower-Than-Previously-Reported.html

Pre-natal mercury exposure and autism link refuted

FoodFacts.com is well aware that for years, expectant mothers have been advised to avoid consuming fish with low levels of mercury. There’s been a concern that the chemical may be responsible for behavioral disorders such as autism. With the numerous nutritional benefits fish can bring to both mother and unborn child, we were happy to read some information today that disputes these concerns.

A new study coming out of the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Department of Public Health Sciences, the Seychelles Ministries of Health and Education, and the University of Ulster in Ireland, is reporting that there is no association between pre-natal mercury exposure and autism-like behaviors. The study draws upon more than 30 years of research in the Republic of Seychelles. The Republic of Seychelles is an ideal location to examine the potential health impact of persistent low level mercury exposure. With a population of 87,000 people spread across an archipelago of islands in the Indian Ocean, fishing is a both an important industry and a primary source of nutrition – the nation’s residents consume fish at a rate 10 times greater than the populations of the U.S. and Europe.

The Seychelles Child Development Study – a partnership between URMC, the Seychelles Ministries of Health and Education, and the University of Ulster in Ireland – was created in the mid-1980s to specifically study the impact of fish consumption and mercury exposure on childhood development. The program is one of the largest ongoing epidemiologic studies of its kind.

The study followed 1,784 children, adolescents, young adults and their mothers. Researchers first determined the level of prenatal mercury exposure by analyzing hair samples collect from mothers at the time of birth.

The researchers then used two questionnaires to determine whether or not the study participants were exhibiting autism spectrum-like behaviors. The Social Communication Questionnaire was completed by the children’s parents and the Social Responsiveness Scale was completed by their teachers. These tests – which include questions on language skills, social communication, and repetitive behaviors – do not provide a definitive diagnosis, but they are widely used in the U.S. as an initial screening tool and may suggest the need for additional evaluation.

The mercury levels of the mothers were then matched with the test scores of their children and the researchers found that there was no correlation between prenatal exposure and evidence of autism-spectrum-like behaviors.

There’s been an ongoing debate regarding fish consumption for expectant mothers. There are so many nutritional benefits from fish … vitamin E, lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids (which aid in fetal brain development), to name a few. But at the same time there has been serious concern regarding exposure to mercury and developmental problems for unborn children. Because of this the FDA has recommended that women limit fish consumption during pregnancy. Researchers noted that further study is needed in order to produce conclusive results.

FoodFacts.com looks forward to understanding more about the relationship between mercury and autism-related behaviors, as well as the prenatal benefits of fish consumption. Fish is healthy protein that provides important nutrients for healthy development. We look forward to further research that may possibly add fish back into the pregnancy diet – both for the enjoyment of the mother and the healthy growth of the unborn child.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/263870.php

Too much of a good thing? Antioxidants and the cardiovascular benefits of exercise.

FoodFacts.com has always included information in our blog posts about the benefits of the antioxidants found in natural, fresh fruits and vegetables. There have been so many good things to tell our community about the benefits of these compounds. The antioxidant resveratrol has made news in the last year for the possibility of its anti-aging properties. It’s found in red wine, red grapes, as well as peanuts, blueberries, cranberries, dark chocolate and cocoa powder. Resveratrol has been associated with the protection of the heart and circulatory system, lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels as well as reducing the risk of certain cancers. All great news!

But now, new research at The University of Copenhagen surprisingly suggests that eating a diet rich in antioxidants may actually counteract many of the health benefits of exercise, including reduced blood pressure and cholesterol.

In contrast to earlier studies in animals in which resveratrol improved the cardiovascular benefits of exercise, this study in humans has provided surprising and strong evidence that in older men, resveratrol has the opposite effect.

While antioxidants like resveratrol have plenty of positive effects on our health, this information seems to point to the idea that some degree of oxidant stress might be necessary for the body to work correctly. So too much of this good thing might actually be detrimental to our health.

The study comes out of the University of Copenhagen. Researchers studied 27 healthy, physically inactive men who were about 65 years of age for 8 weeks. During the study period, all of the men performed high-intensity exercise training. Half of the group received 250 mg of resveratrol daily, while the other half received a placebo. The study was double-blinded so that neither the subjects nor the scientists knew which participant received the antioxidant or the placebo.

Researchers found that the exercise training undertaken by all the participants was very effective at improving their cardiovascular health. They did discover, however that resveratrol detracted from the positive effects of the training in areas including blood pressure and oxygen uptake, among others. Scientists were surprised to find that resveratrol in older men appeared to lessen the benefits of exercise on heart health. The results contract the findings from previous animal studies. The need for larger, more extensive studies on varied age groups was noted in order to confirm the results obtained. In addition, it was noted that the resveratrol supplementation provided in this study was greater than the amounts obtained through natural food sources.

FoodFacts.com looks forward to further research regarding the effects of antioxidants on our health. This is important information regarding how these compounds work in our bodies to promote our well-being. Perhaps the “too much of a good thing” concept for resveratrol and other antioxidant compounds is related to supplementation, as opposed to obtaining these compounds through natural food sources. A balanced diet, rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables can provide us with the nutrition our bodies need to remain healthy and strong throughout our lifetimes.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130722071955.htm

The most important meal of the day

FoodFacts.com knows that everyone in our community has heard their parents, grandparents and caregivers repeat any number of statements regarding their eating habits when they were children. You remember them … “Eat your vegetables, they’re good for you,” “Drink your milk so you have strong bones,” “Eat your carrots, they’re good for your eyesight,” and “You have to eat breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day.” Turns out they were absolutely right and we repeat those statements to our own children today.

Now there’s new information that provides more insight into why breakfast really is the most important meal of the day – and it has to do with more than giving us the energy we need to get through the morning thinking clearly and performing at our best.
Research from the Harvard School of Public Health has just been published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. The results found an association between skipping breakfast and a higher risk of heart attack and coronary heart disease.

For their study the researchers analyzed food frequency questionnaires completed by 26,902 male health professionals aged between 45 and 82 years and tracked their health for 16 years from 1992 to 2008. The men were free of heart disease and cancer at the start of the study.

Over the follow-up, 1,572 men experienced non-fatal heart attacks or died of coronary heart disease. When they analyzed the data the researchers found men who said they did not have breakfast had a 27% higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than men who said they ate breakfast. The men who said they skipped breakfast tended to be younger, single, smokers, who worked full time, did not do much exercise and drank more alcohol.

Researchers noted that the results suggest that eating habits may affect risk of coronary heart disease through pathways associated with traditional risk factors.

The study reinforces previous research and sends a message to make sure we don’t skip breakfast. Eating a healthy meal at the beginning of the day is linked to a lower risk of heart attacks.

FoodFacts.com knows that there are so many great ideas for a healthy breakfast from whole grain toast, to oatmeal to a good quality granola or organic cold cereal. We can add nuts, berries, bananas, peaches …or any other fruit. Breakfast is an easy meal to keep interesting and flavorful, without unhealthy ingredients. So let’s get creative for ourselves and our kids! And the next time we tell them that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, we won’t just be helping them stay focused in school, we’ll be helping develop a habit that will help to keep their hearts healthy throughout their lives!

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263775.php

Are we subsidizing the obesity crisis?

FoodFacts.com is always interested in new information that helps us gain better insight into the skyrocketing obesity epidemic. We have great concern about the availability and nutritional quality of the processed foods and beverages in our grocery stores and fast food chains and are constantly offering education regarding the ingredients being used in our food supply. Obesity is a real problem in our society – one that affects the health and well-being of millions in our population.

Today we found information we want to make sure everyone in our community is aware of. A new report released by the U.S. PIRG (the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups) reveals that one billion dollars of federal tax money is subsidizing ingredients used in processed foods and beverages. We are financially supporting commodity crops used for additives like high-fructose corn syrup with enough tax dollars to effectively purchase 20 Twinkies every year for every taxpayer in our nation. By contrast, subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables would buy each of us just one half of an apple each year.

These subsidies are part of the Farm Bill that expires in September. Both the Farm Bill approved by the U.S. Senate and the one that passed the House last Thursday would continue these subsidies.

The report indicates that as the obesity epidemic continues to grow each year, our food policy seems to be subsidizing the food and beverage products that are helping to fuel it. Between 1995 and 2012, American taxpayers spent more than $290 billion in agricultural subsidies. 75 percent of the subsidies go to just 3.8 percent of farmers. The subsidies mainly support a few commodity crops, including corn and soybeans. Among other uses, food manufacturers process corn and soy crops into additives like high-fructose corn syrup and vegetable oil – two of the ingredients that add excess sugar and fat to processed products.

Some of the report’s findings to take note of:

• Between 1995 and 2012, more than $19 billion in tax dollars subsidized four common food additives – corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, corn starch, and soy oils. At $7.30 per taxpayer per year, that would buy each taxpayer 20 Twinkies.

• Outside of commodity crops, other agricultural products received very little in federal subsidies. Since 1995, taxpayers spent only $689 million subsidizing apples, which is the only significant federal subsidy of fresh fruits or vegetables. Coming to 26 cents per taxpayer per year, that would buy less than half of one Red Delicious apple.

So as childhood obesity continues to rise and the obese population experiences a plethora of weight-related health problems, our tax dollars continue to support the ingredients that keep consumers coming back for more sugary and fatty food choices. FoodFacts.com finds this quite confusing. While we understand that research points to obesity as a complex problem with many contributing causes, it’s no secret that processed foods contain too much sugar and fat. And yet we’re actually supporting the very ingredients that play a role in the current epidemic. As a community of nutritionally-aware individuals, we can continue to do our part by remembering our own commitment to quality food choices, fresh ingredients and sharing knowledge. You can download the report here for the complete information it contains.

https://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2013/07/16

Dietary adjustments help children produce their own insulin

FoodFacts.com knows that everyone in our community is painfully aware of the tremendous increase in diabetes in the worldwide population. Most disturbing, however, is the startling rise in the incidence of Type 1 diabetes in children. While there has been research conducting trying to pinpoint the reason for the sharp increase, we still don’t have a conclusive reason for the increasing problem. Type 1 diabetes is almost always diagnosed between infancy and young adulthood, according to the American Diabetes Association. The body’s pancreas is unable to produce adequate amounts of the hormone insulin, required to metabolize food properly and create energy for the body’s cells.

Today we learned of some especially encouraging news coming out of the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It appears that by adding foods rich in specific amino and fatty acids to the diets of children, teens and young adults with Type 1 diabetes, their bodies can be encouraged to produce some of their own insulin for up to two years after their diagnosis. While participants still required supplemental insulin, they may have reduced risk of diabetes complications because of the ability to produce some of their own insulin.

The study (Nutritional Factors and Preservation of C-Peptides in Youth with Recently Diagnosed Type 1 Diabetes) involved over 1,300 young people ranging from toddler age to 20. They are part of a multi-center “SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth,” the largest United States study of childhood diabetes.

The study identified Leucine, one of the branched-chain amino acids that is known to stimulate insulin secretion. Leucine is found in dairy products, meats, soy products, eggs, nuts and whole wheat products. In addition, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish like salmon, were also associated with the insulin production. The researchers made specific note that the effects were found when the subjects ate actual foods rich in these nutrients. The effects were not associated with taking supplements.

FoodFacts.com is especially encouraged by the association between diet and insulin production. We know that fresh, whole foods impart many benefits to our health and well being. But, we are always thrilled to find out how simple dietary changes can help chronic health problems and disease. We’re excited by the idea of a future where we need less drug-related intervention and enjoy more nutritional intervention. Natural solutions to health conditions will help the worldwide population enjoy longer, more fulfilling and happier lives.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/263529.php

New cancer risk related to high sugar consumption

Sugar, sugar everywhere … FoodFacts.com is always seeking awareness and education about the problems related to our high levels of sugar consumption. Sugar, in a variety of forms, is added to almost every processed food and beverage product available on our grocery shelves. We’re experiencing soaring levels of obesity and diabetes, and it hasn’t altered the sugar content of our food supply.

Today we read about the results of a new study coming out of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland that has linked high sugar and fat diets with an increased risk of bowel cancer. It appears that colorectal (bowel) cancer can be positively associated with the consumption of sugary beverages, cakes, cookies, snacks and desserts.

Conducted last year using data from the Scottish Colorectal Cancer Study, the study included 2,063 patients suffering from bowel cancer and 2,776 control participants from Scotland.

The study builds on previous research analyzing links between diet and bowel cancer, which identified two distinct eating patterns. One was a diet high in healthy foods, such as fruit and vegetables, and the other diet was high in meat, fat and sugar.

The research team analyzed over 170 foods, including fruits, vegetables, fish and meat, as well as chocolate, nuts, chips and fruit drinks. They also looked at links between some established risks of bowel cancer, such as family history of cancer, physical activity and smoking.

Results revealed that the healthy diet was associated with a decreased risk of bowel cancer, while the high fat and sugar diet is associated with an increased risk.

While it was noted that some of the main predictors of colorectal cancer include family history and genetic risk factors, diet can actually play a very important role in its development. Previous research did link the disease with high consumption of processed links, but this new information shows a link with sugary snacks and drinks. Researchers acknowledge that the study does not show a cause and effect relationship between this type of cancer and sugar consumption, but the suggestion is certainly strong enough to indicate the need for larger studies in the future.

FoodFacts.com understands that added sugar is an unnecessary component of thousands of food products. We’re already aware of the role of added sugars in contributing to the worldwide obesity crisis and we’ve already been made aware of the unprecedented climb in instances of diabetes across the globe. Now, researchers are acknowledging a possible link between sugary foods and colorectal cancer. The majority of the sugar consumed by our population doesn’t come from our sugar bowls, it comes from products we purchase every day. While nothing may ever actually get added sugar out of our food supply, we can cut down on the sugar we consume ourselves, by preparing fresh, whole foods in our own kitchens where we can make sure our own diets our as healthy as we can make them.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263392.php

New insight into the obesity gene

FoodFacts.com is continually on the lookout for new research and information regarding the obesity epidemic. There have been a number of studies released over the last year offering insights into this growing health problem that is affecting millions of people worldwide. We’re always especially concerned with our children and hopeful that scientists will pinpoint new methods of fighting this ongoing crisis.

Today we learned that researchers in Great Britain have unraveled the puzzle regarding how the gene associated with obesity actually makes people fat. A common variation of the FTO gene affects one in six of the population. That genetic variation makes the population carrying it 70 percent more likely to become obese than those without it.

Researchers from the University College London followed studies of blood samples from people after meals, combined with functional magnetic resonance imaging of volunteers’ brains and cell-based studies looking at ghrelin production at a molecular level.   They found that people with the FTO gene variation not only had higher levels of the hunger hormone called ghrelin in their blood, but also had an increased sensitivity to the chemical in their brains. For the population with this genetic variation, it’s a double hunger effect.

Researchers feel that this work provides new insights and opens up the possibility of new and different treatments. Some experimental drugs that are meant to suppress ghrelin might be effective if they can be targeted to patients with the obesity-risk variant of the FTO gene.

Previous research has already shown that ghrelin can be reduced by eating a high-protein diet, so this new information may mean dietary recommendations that take those previous findings into consideration. While scientists feel that the FTO gene can only explain a small part of the obesity epidemic, they do note that this study’s discovery is an important step forward to understanding the puzzle of the many factors involved in obesity.

Obesity is growing across the globe at an unprecedented pace. The World Health Organization reports that almost 3 million adults die every year as a result of being overweight or obese. And over 40 million children under the age of five were overweight in 2011. Obesity puts people at major risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

FoodFacts.com knows that knowledge is power. Research like this will advance the cause of defeating obesity around the world. An elevated understanding of our bodies, coupled with the nutritional awareness necessary to commit to a healthy lifestyle will help millions of people across the globe to reverse this growing and debilitating trend.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/15/us-obesity-gene-idUSBRE96E0KB20130715