Category Archives: health effects

Suffering from seasonal allergies? Probiotics might help.

woman-yogurt-bed-150504The season is upon us. After an especially long, cold and snowy winter, millions of people here in the U.S. are greeting the change in seasons with a chorus of sneezing, watery eyes and runny noses. Seasonal allergies have arrived and with them, the attempt to find a way to stop them. Could eating yogurt or taking probiotic supplements be helpful?

Researchers analyzed the results from more than 20 previous studies and found that hay fever sufferers may get some benefits from using probiotics, improving their symptoms and quality of life.

But the jury is still out about whether probiotics are actually an effective treatment for people with seasonal allergies, said lead author Dr. Justin Turner, an ear-nose-and-throat surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

Additional high-quality studies are needed before doctors would recommend for or against using probiotics to help treat people with seasonal allergies, Turner said.

Probiotics are bacteria that are thought to help maintain a healthy gut. They are found in certain foods, such as yogurt with live active cultures, kefir and sauerkraut, and also supplements. Probiotics may change the balance of bacteria in the intestines in a way that could protect the immune system from flaring up in response to pollens and other allergens, which may help reduce allergy symptoms, Turner said.

But he also cautioned that there is still much more information that needs to be understood about the effect of probiotics on the immune system.

Seasonal allergies are estimated to affect approximately 50 million Americans, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Allergy symptoms such as sneezing, a stuffy or runny nose, and itchy and watery eyes are typically treated with a combination of medications, including antihistamines, decongestants and steroid nasal sprays.

In the new study, published online in April in the journal International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology, researchers reviewed data from 23 randomized trials and more than 1,900 people.

They found that the majority of these studies (17 of 23) showed that people with seasonal allergies who took probiotic supplements or ate foods containing probiotics showed improvement in at least one outcome measure, such as improving their allergy symptoms, or their general quality of life, compared with allergy sufferers who took a placebo.

Six of 23 studies found probiotics had no benefit to people with hay fever, the researchers said.

But because the studies used different strains of live bacteria, different dosages and different probiotic supplement formulations over different periods of time, it is difficult to make any formal recommendations about probiotic use, bacterial strains or length of treatment that may benefit people with seasonal allergies, Turner said.

Even if probiotics prove effective for seasonal allergies, it’s unlikely they would replace the standard medical treatments currently used by people affected by them, Turner said.

While more research is needed, FoodFacts.com wants to point out that for seasonal allergy sufferers, it’s easy enough to determine if probiotics can help you. Yogurt is simple enough to add into your diet. And the majority of these studies did yield results that illustrates the addition as a viable option. Over-the-counter medication for seasonal allergies can keep us awake, put us to sleep, raise our blood pressure, and make us thirsty — not to mention that most contain ingredients we’re not very fond of. Testing out the probiotic concept seems to be more than a reasonably good idea!

http://www.livescience.com/50723-probiotics-help-relieve-seasonal-allergies.html

It’s not just about high blood pressure: the effects of salt on other organs

salt sprinkled on tableWe all know that salt can have negative health effects. We know that’s true, and yet, FoodFacts.com doesn’t see any decrease in the sales of processed foods and millions are still walking through the doors of major fast food chains every day.

You may think you’re one of the lucky ones who can eat all the salty snacks and convenience foods you want and still register low numbers on the blood pressure cuff. But, new research suggests you may not be so lucky after all.

A review paper co-authored by two faculty members in the University of Delaware College of Health Sciences and two physicians at Christiana Care Health System provides evidence that even in the absence of an increase in blood pressure, excess dietary sodium can adversely affect target organs, including the blood vessels, heart, kidneys and brain.

Authors of the paper, “Dietary Sodium and Health: More Than Just Blood Pressure,” include William Farquhar and David Edwards in UD’s Department of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology; William Weintraub, chief of cardiology at Christiana Care; and Claudine Jurkovitz, a nephrologist epidemiologist and senior scientist in the Value Institute Center for Outcomes Research at Christiana Care.

The paper was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“Blood pressure responses to alterations in dietary sodium vary widely, which has led to the concept of ‘salt-sensitive’ blood pressure,” says Farquhar. “There are no standardized guidelines for classifying individuals as having salt-sensitive blood pressure, but if blood pressure increases during a period of high dietary sodium or decreases during a low-sodium period, the person is considered salt sensitive. If there’s no change in blood pressure with sodium restriction, an individual is considered salt resistant.”

However, the research cited in the paper points to evidence of adverse effects on multiple target organs and tissues, even for people who are salt resistant.

Potential effects on the arteries include reduced function of the endothelium, which is the inner lining of blood vessels. Endothelial cells mediate a number of processes, including coagulation, platelet adhesion and immune function. Elevated dietary sodium can also increase arterial stiffness.

Farquhar and Edwards have done previous work in this area, with one study showing that excess salt intake in humans impairs endothelium-dependent dilation and another demonstrating that dietary sodium loading impairs microvascular function. In both cases, the effects are independent of changes in blood pressure.

They review their work and the growing body of evidence to support a deleterious effect of dietary salt on vascular function independent of blood pressure in a recent invited paper in Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension.

“High dietary sodium can also lead to left ventricular hypertrophy, or enlargement of the muscle tissue that makes up the wall of the heart’s main pumping chamber,” Edwards says. “As the walls of the chamber grow thicker, they become less compliant and eventually are unable to pump as forcefully as a healthy heart.”

Regarding the kidneys, evidence suggests that high sodium is associated with reduced renal function, a decline observed with only a minimal increase in blood pressure.

Finally, sodium may also affect the sympathetic nervous system, which activates what is often termed the fight-or-flight response.

“Chronically elevated dietary sodium may ‘sensitize’ sympathetic neurons in the brain, causing a greater response to a variety of stimuli, including skeletal muscle contraction,” Farquhar says. “Again, even if blood pressure isn’t increased, chronically increased sympathetic outflow may have harmful effects on target organs.”

Jurkovitz points out that studying the effects of salt restriction on clinical outcomes is not easy. Challenges include accurate assessment of intake, long-term maintenance on a defined salt regimen, and the need for large numbers of patients and extended follow-up to obtain enough outcomes for meaningful analysis.

However, she says, “A large body of evidence confirms the biological plausibility of the association between high sodium intake and increases in blood pressure and cardiovascular events.”

This evidence has resulted in the American Heart Association’s recommendation that we consume less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day.

Taking the salt shaker off the table is a good way to start, but it’s probably not enough, says Weintraub, whose work focuses on cardiology outcomes.

“Approximately 70 percent of the sodium in our diets comes from processed foods, including items that we don’t typically think of as salty such as breads and cereals,” he says. “Also, restaurant food typically contains more salt than dishes prepared at home, so eating out less can help reduce salt intake, especially if herbs and spices — instead of salt — are used to add flavor to home-cooked meals.”

But the authors acknowledge that shaking the salt habit won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight.

“Reducing sodium will take a coordinated effort involving organizations like the AHA, food producers and processors, restaurants, and public policy aimed at education,” Weintraub says.
FoodFacts.com thinks we should all remember this research the next time we reach for a processed food product or think to ourselves that our favorite bowl of soup from our favorite casual restaurant can’t be that bad. All of us need to be more conscious of our salt consumption and try our best to work towards a meaningful reduction of sodium in our diets.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/290734.php

Holiday Cheer: Buche De Noel Edition

The big day is upon us!  The house is decorated, the tree is lit, the presents are wrapped and the meal planning is well underway!  FoodFacts.com wanted to make sure that we showcase one of our favorite courses from the holiday feast – dessert!

No matter what your tradition, dessert will certainly play a big role in tomorrow’s meal.  And many home chefs look forward to putting their skills to work in the creation of a beautiful and tasty Buche de Noel (or Yule Log).  These cakes can truly be works of art – and banquets of holiday flavor.  Unfortunately as beautiful and flavorful as the cake may be, it’s also very rich and typically packs a big punch in the fat and sugar categories.  The traditional recipe for Buche de Noel contains:

Calories: 276
Fat: 17.7g
Saturated Fat: 10.4g
Sugar: 22.9g

We’re pretty sure we can do better, while still keeping this beautiful cake moist, flavorful and fun.

For the cake, you’ll need:

  • 5 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoon(s) unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoon(s) organic vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup(s) whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup(s) cake flour, sifted
  • 1/4 cup(s) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2/3 cup(s) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) salt

For the filling and frosting, you’ll need

  • Organic Agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon(s) instant espresso powder or coffee granules
  • 4 teaspoon(s) dried egg whites (see Tips), reconstituted according to package directions (equivalent to 2 egg whites)
  • 1/4 tspn creme of tartar
  • 1/4 tspn salt
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup(s) brewed coffee, room temperature or cold
  • 1/4 cup(s) organic half-and-half

 

Directions

  1. Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a large (12-by-16 1/2-inch) rimmed baking sheet (half sheet pan) with parchment paper; coat the paper and pan sides with cooking spray. Place eggs (in the shell) in a stand mixer bowl or large mixing bowl, add warm tap water, and set aside to warm the eggs and bowl.
  2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, swirling occasionally, until the white flecks of milk solids in the bottom of the pan start to turn golden brown, 4 to 8 minutes. Scrape into a medium bowl. Let cool to room temperature, then add 2 teaspoons vanilla. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk whole-wheat flour, cake flour, and 1/4 cup cocoa in a medium bowl; set aside.
  4. Drain the water and break the eggs into the warmed mixing bowl. Add sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt and beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until thick and pale light yellow, 5 to 15 minutes (depending on the power of your mixer). To test if it’s beaten well enough, lift the beater from the batter: as the batter falls off the beater into the bowl, it should mound for a moment on the surface.
  5. Gently fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture with a whisk, in two additions, until just incorporated. Gently fold about 1 cup of the batter into the reserved butter. Then gently fold the butter mixture into the bowl of batter with a whisk until just incorporated, being careful not to overmix. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared baking sheet, spreading completely to the sides.
  6. Bake the cake until puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 8 to 12 minutes. Cool in the pan on a large wire rack for 10 minutes. Gently run a knife around the edges and turn the cake out onto the rack; remove the parchment and let cool completely. Once cool, cover with 2 overlapping pieces of plastic wrap and a clean, damp kitchen towel to prevent it from drying out. (The cake can be held this way for up to 4 hours before assembling the Yule Log.)
  7. To prepare filling and frosting: Bring 2 inches of water to a simmer in the bottom of a double boiler. Combine agave nectar, instant coffee, reconstituted egg whites, cream of tartar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in the top of the double boiler. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Place over the simmering water and beat on high speed until the frosting is glossy and has the texture of very thick shaving cream, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla until just combined.
  8. Leaving the towel and plastic wrap over the cake, invert it onto a work surface with a long edge nearest you. The towel will now be on the bottom, with the plastic wrap directly beneath the cake. Combine coffee and half-and-half in a small bowl. Brush the top of the cake with the coffee mixture; let it soak in and continue brushing on more until all of it is absorbed.
  9. Spread about two-thirds of the frosting evenly over the cake. Using the plastic wrap, lift the long edge and roll the cake into a log lengthwise. Cut a 3 to 4-inch “branch” off one end at an angle. Place the longer log on a serving platter, seam-side down. Use a little frosting to attach the branch to the main log. Cover the cake and branch with the remaining frosting. Make decorative ridges in the frosting with a fork to resemble bark. Let the cake stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Or refrigerate, uncovered, for up to 1 day.

Here’s how the nutrition facts stack up for the revamped recipe:

Calories:  178
Fat: 5g
Saturated Fat: 3g
Sugar: 8g

 

That’s a pretty significant difference.  It’s important to remember, especially around the holidays, that we can enjoy our favorite meals – and desserts.  We can all find lighter versions of much-loved traditional foods that don’t sacrifice flavor and will help to make our holidays happy and memorable!

FoodFacts.com wishes everyone in our community the happiest of holidays and a healthy and prosperous new year!

Staying healthy during the holidays

Our holiday focus zeroes in on our tendency to overindulge at this time of year. Please don’t get us wrong … FoodFacts.com loves treating ourselves during this season just as much as anyone else! Snacks … cookies … desserts … specialty cocktails … the pleasures of the season are plentiful … and we’re certainly not going to tell you not to indulge.

But we are going to tell you that it would be beneficial to indulge intelligently. What’s your strategy for staying healthy during the holidays? You really do need to have one so that you can fully enjoy the season without guilt … or repercussions. So we’re sharing some tips we can all use during the holiday festivities that will help us keep on track, even though we are happy to enjoy the many opportunities on hand to indulge.

Don’t forget about water …
Let’s make sure that we keep drinking water during holidays. More than 50 percent of the human body is made of water. Bodies need water to function and you don’t want to dehydrate. Dehydration means your metabolism coming to a grinding halt and increasing your body’s inflammation levels, often resulting in weight loss resistance. By the time you realize you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Drink a large glass of water when you wake up. Always have water on hand to sip throughout the day. Water can help you feel fuller, longer and help your body process the foods you’re eating. It’s important all year long … but right now, it’s more important than it usually is.

Make sure you get enough sleep
The season is all about parties … and some of them can run late. If you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll be craving bad food in the morning. Missing one night’s sleep can throw your fat-burning hormones for a loop. When you finally do wake up, your body will be asking you for foods you normally wouldn’t be eating – things with too much fat, sugar and salt. Especially during this time of year, you need at least seven hours of real sleep every night. If you make sure you get it, you’ll have a happier holiday season.

Don’t forget your exercise
We’re all really busy this time of year. Make sure you don’t interrupt your exercise routine. It’s really not o.k. to neglect it. Work out on your regular schedule, no matter what you need to do to make that happen. Remember, you’re eating and drinking more right now than during other times of the year.

There’s a lot of stress during the holidays
We have to buy gifts, go to parties, make phone calls, see family, maybe we need to get on a plane or a train or a bus … scheduling is difficult (at best). Then we’re consuming more caffeine, more alcohol, more sugar and more salt. Mix that all together and your cortisol level is going to be higher than it is all year. Cortisol is the stress hormone and when its levels are higher in your body, you’re going to be storing more fat. What’s your go-to stress relief method? Meditation, yoga, exercise, walking, deep breathing???? Whatever you do, do more of it until after the new year.

Make sure to eat your daily fiber
Fiber slows stomach emptying, dials down your hunger hormone ghrelin, balances blood sugar, and reduces cravings so you’re less likely to eat bad food. The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention recommend a daily intake of fiber of 25 to 35 grams for adults. During this season of overindulgence, make sure you eat your daily fiber requirements with high-fiber foods … berries, lentil, leafy greens, nuts and seeds.

Enjoy your holiday! Eat what you’d like to eat, drink what you’d like to drink and have a wonderful season! You can do all of that without sacrificing your healthy lifestyle! Keep track and stay smart and active. None of us indulges 24 hours a day. Make those other hours count for your health and well being. Then you won’t have to miss out on anything.

Your healthy diet may lower your risk of pancreatic cancer

FoodFacts.com is always seeking new information that provides additional motivation for us all to stay committed to our healthy diet and lifestyle. Let’s face it, with so many processed foods and beverages surrounding us, as well as an enormous number of rather sedentary activity choices, we can all use a little extra inspiration from time to time! Today we read about a new study just published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that gives us plenty of encouragement for staying with our personal commitment to live the healthiest lifestyle we can.

According to this new research from the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, people who reported dietary intake that was the most consistent with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans had a lower risk of pancreatic cancer.

Previous studies investigating the relationship between food and nutrient intake and pancreatic cancer have yielded inconsistent results. The U.S. Government issues evidence-based dietary guidelines that provide the basis for federal nutrition policy and education activities to promote overall health for Americans. The authors evaluated how closely study participants’ diets matched the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as measured by the Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2005), and then compared their risk of pancreatic cancer.

Researchers calculated HEI-2005 scores for 537,218 participants in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study (ages 50-71 years), based on responses to food frequency questionnaires. Pancreatic cancer risk was then compared between those with high and low HEI-2005 scores, accounting for the influence of other known pancreatic cancer risk factors.

Among the study participants there were 2,383 new cases of pancreatic cancer. Overall, the investigators observed a 15% lower risk of pancreatic cancer among participants with the highest HEI-2005 score compared to those with the lowest HEI-2005 score. This association was stronger among overweight or obese men compared to men of normal weight, but there was no difference for normal vs. overweight or obese women. While the authors adjusted for known risk factors such as smoking and diabetes status, they caution that other health factors not collected in the questionnaires may be associated with a more healthful diet and might explain some of the observed reduced risk. They also noted that diet is difficult to measure and the HEI-2005 was not designed specifically for the purpose of overall cancer prevention.

Researchers noted that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are issued to promote overall health, including the maintenance of a healthy weight and disease prevention. Study findings support the hypothesis that a high-quality diet may also play a role in reducing pancreatic cancer risk. Future studies are needed to confirm these findings.

FoodFacts.com thinks that all of us who are committed to nutritional awareness and healthy habits should celebrate these findings, and others, that bring to light new benefits arising from our diligence. We encourage everyone in our community to spread the good news about the health benefits we can all repeat from that commitment!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130815172335.htm

There may not be a “safe” level of sugar

FoodFacts.com has always been very concerned about added sugar in the American diet. We know that unless we do our best to avoid processed foods and sugary beverages, our diets will continue to contain far too much sugar. The majority of the sugar found in our diets isn’t coming from the sugar bowls on our tables; it’s coming from the food and beverage products we’re purchasing at our grocery stores and fast food restaurants. The unreasonable amount of sugar consumed in the U.S. has contributed to the obesity crisis as well as the sharp rise in diabetes and heart disease. Today we found more information about sugar consumption that we should all be aware of.

Consuming the equivalent of three cans of soda on a daily basis, or a 25% increased added-sugar intake, may decrease lifespan and reduce the rate of reproduction, according to a study of mice published in the journal Nature Communications.

Researchers from the University of Utah conducted a toxicity experiment on 156 mice, of which 58 were male and 98 were female.

The experiment involved placing them in room-sized pens called “mouse barns” with a number of nest boxes. The researchers say this allowed the mice to move around naturally to find mates and explore the territories they wished.

The mice were fed a diet of a nutritious wheat-corn-soybean mix with vitamins and minerals. But one group of mice had 25% more sugar mixed with their food – half fructose and half glucose. Mice in a control group were fed corn starch in place of the added sugars. The National Research Council recommends that people should have no more than 25% of their daily calories from foods and beverages with added sugar.

This study in mice suggests that consuming the equivalent of three extra sodas a day could decrease your length of life. This is the equivalent of consuming three cans of sweetened soda a day alongside a healthy, no-added-sugar diet.

Results of this most recent research showed that after 32 weeks in the mouse barns, 35% of the female mice who were fed the added-sugar foods died, compared with 17% of female
The research also showed that male mice on the sugar diet produced 25% fewer offspring compared with the male mice in the control group.

However, the results reported no difference between the mice fed the healthy diet and those fed the added-sugar diet when looking at obesity, fasting insulin levels, fasting glucose levels and fasting triglyceride levels.

The study authors say of the findings:

“Our results provide evidence that added sugar consumed at concentrations currently considered safe exerts dramatic adverse impacts on mammalian health. This demonstrates the adverse effects of added sugars at human-relevant levels.”

The researchers add that the strength of this study is built on how the mice were tested in a natural environment they are accustomed to, providing more accurate results.

Wayne Potts, professor of biology at the University of Utah and the study’s senior author, says:

“Mice happen to be an excellent mammal to model human dietary issues because they have been living on the same diet as we have ever since the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago.”

FoodFacts.com finds this information especially important specifically because our population consumes so much processed food and beverages. It would be quite difficult for any consumer to keep conscious track of the amount of added sugars in their daily diet and would require notation of every product they consume – from their morning coffee or mocha or latte, instant flavored oatmeal for breakfast, granola bar snack, canned soup at lunch to the rice mix they’re preparing as a side dish for dinner. You get the idea. It’s not enough to be aware that processed foods contain added sugar. It’s important to avoid added sugar. And the best way to avoid added sugar is to prepare our own foods at home in our own kitchens. When we do, we can be confident of the amount of sugar in our diets, and avoid the serious health issues that can arise from the “sugar culture” we’re surrounded by in our grocery stores and fast food establishments.

Read more here: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/264788.php

Sleep well and make better food choices

FoodFacts.com spends a lot of time advocating for nutritional awareness. The more educated consumers become, the more conscious they will be regarding their food choices. Knowledge is power … and that’s just as true when it comes to nutrition as it is for any other subject. But nutritional awareness and education often encompass subjects outside of actual food products and ingredients. Subjects like exercise and sleep tend to have affects on our health and well-being as well.

Today we learned that new research coming out of the University of California Berkeley is linking lack of sleep to less-than-desirable food choices. A sleepless night might actually make you more likely to crave a doughnut or a slice of pizza. The research is raising new questions about the link between poor sleep and obesity.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), UC Berkeley researchers scanned the brains of 23 healthy young adults, first after a normal night’s sleep and next, after a sleepless night. They found impaired activity in the sleep-deprived brain’s frontal lobe, which governs complex decision-making, but increased activity in deeper brain centers that respond to rewards. Moreover, the participants favored unhealthy snack and junk foods when they were sleep deprived.

It appears that high-level brain regions that are involved in complex judgments and decisions become blunted by lack of sleep. At the same time, that lack of sleep causes more primal brain structures that control motivation and desire to become amplified. High calorie foods become more desirable when sleep-deprived because of this combination of altered brain activity and decision making.

Previous studies have linked poor sleep to greater appetites, particularly for sweet and salty foods, but the latest findings provide a specific brain mechanism explaining why food choices change for the worse following a sleepless night.

In this newest study, researchers measured brain activity as participants viewed a series of 80 food images that ranged from high-to low-calorie and healthy and unhealthy, and rated their desire for each of the items. As an incentive, they were given the food they most craved after the MRI scan.

Food choices presented in the experiment ranged from fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, apples and carrots, to high-calorie burgers, pizza and doughnuts. The latter are examples of the more popular choices following a sleepless night.

FoodFacts.com wants to emphasize the importance of healthy lifestyle as it contributes to healthy food choices. Physical exercise and adequate sleep will contribute to how we approach our diets. Healthier food choices aren’t simply dependent on our food awareness, they are also the result of our lifestyle habits. Let’s make the best choices possible for our overall healthy lifestyle and our food choices will follow accordingly!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130806145542.htm

Great new reason to find every way to eat your 5 a day

FoodFacts.com has always supported the consumption of fresh whole foods as one of the building blocks involved in enjoying a long and healthy life. While there are certainly other variables involved in our health and well being, diet is something we all have a choice in and control over. When our dietary choices involve fresh, whole foods and are rich in fruits and vegetables, our bodies reap the benefits. We’ve always taken the “Eat your 5 a day” advice seriously.

Today we found new information confirming that following that advice is important for another great reason – it may actually prolong your life!

A large Swedish study has found a link between fruit and vegetable consumption and lifespan. People who ate fewer than the recommended “5 a Day” portions of fruit and vegetables tended not to live as long as people who ate 5 portions a day or more, say the researchers. The study comes out of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and is written up in the August issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

It appears that there haven’t been many large studies that have looked at the association between fruit and vegetable consumption and lifespan. The studies that have been conducted have produced inconsistent results.

For this new study, researchers looked at the relationship between different amounts of daily fruit and vegetable consumption and timing and rate of deaths in a large population of 71,706 Swedish men and women who completed questionnaires about their food intake as participants in the Swedish Mammography Cohort and the Cohort of Swedish Men.

The participants were followed for 13 years and ranged in age from 45 to 83. About half the participants were men. During the follow-up period, just under 11,500 of the participants died.

When the researchers analyzed the results, it was found that eating fewer than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day was progressively linked to shorter lifespan and higher rates of death in both the men and women when compared with those who ate 5 a day or more. Thus, the less fruits and vegetables they ate under the 5 a day threshold, the shorter their lives.

Participants who said they never ate fruit and vegetables had their lives cut short by an average of 3 years, and were 53% more likely to die during the follow-up, compared with those who said they ate 5 servings a day or more.

The study was not designed to look for cause and effect, so it cannot say for sure that eating fruits and vegetables actually increases lifespan. The cause could be due to other factors that differed between those who ate fruits and vegetables and those who did not.
Researchers noted that participants who said they ate fewer fruits and vegetables tended to be smokers, with fewer years of education, and bigger eaters of red meat, high-fat dairy goods, snacks and sweets. But those who ate a lot of fruits and vegetables tended to consume more calories. When researchers adjusted the results to factor in possible effects of gender, BMI, exercise, alcohol and smoking, the results did not change significantly.

Even consumption of just one portion of fruit a day made a difference in lifespan. Those who never ate fruit lived an average of 19 months less than those who ate one portion per day. And those who said they ate three servings of vegetables per day lived 32 months longer than those who said they never ate vegetables.

While FoodFacts.com understands that more research is certainly suggested, we find this to be very compelling information. It certainly gives us all a great reason to make sure that we find every way we can to consume our 5 a day. A little nutritional awareness can go a long way!

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263372.php

Healthy diet and heart disease … a little prevention goes a long way

As a major advocate of healthy, conscious eating, FoodFacts.com actively looks for new information and research regarding how conscious consuming affects our health and well being. We were happy to find this information today coming out of McMaster University.

32,000 cardiovascular patients, on average in their 60s, living in 40 different countries were followed to discover whether or not following a heart healthy diet consisting of fish, fruits and vegetables would reduce their chances of recurrent heart attacks or strokes.

It turns out they found a significant and positive effect when patients included a heart healthy diet along with traditional preventive therapies. In fact, of the 32,000 patients studied, there was a 35 percent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular death, a 14 percent reduction in the risk for new heart attacks, a 28 percent reduction the risk for congestive heart failure and a 19 percent reduction in the risk for strokes.

The patients participating were surveyed for how often they consumed different categories of food in the past year, including fruits, vegetables, grains, milk, nuts, poultry, meat and fish. In addition, they were asked about personal lifestyle choices including exercise and smoking. A healthy diet was considered to be high in fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts in addition to a higher consumption of fish than meat or poultry.

Researchers found that those patients who reported consuming the heart-healthy diet defined received additional benefits over and above those provided by taking their regular cardiovascular medications. These patients experienced a significant reduction of cardiovascular related events.

The study that noted that some heart patients believe that because their prescribed medications are working to lower their blood pressure and cholesterol, their diet isn’t an important factor in their disease. Every year, more than 20 million people around the work survive heart attack and stroke and while it’s true that their prescribed drug treatments do work to lower their risk of additional events, this study links the addition of a heart-healthy diet to better outcomes.

It’s thought that this is the first research that has focused on the impact of healthy eating for cardiovascular patients who are taking medications to combat the possibility of future heart attacks, stroke or death. The concept of a physician’s advice to heart patients being expanded to include healthy diet improvement is really pretty simple.

FoodFacts.com is encouraged that this study and, hopefully future research, will promote the heart-healthy diet as more than just a preventative measure for avoiding cardiovascular problems, but as an actual treatment for those who have been afflicted with heart disease. Some small changes in diet could result in healthier, happier and longer lives for millions.

Read more:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121203162931.htm

Chia, the hottest newest health trend

FoodFacts.com has a very clear memory of the first time we ever heard of Chia. It was on television commercials advertising a unique novelty plant called a Chia Pet. It took off right away … and was spun off into many different forms. The original pet was a ceramic animal with seeds that a person would water and Chia grass would sprout on its body. They’re still sold. You can even buy a Chia Dinosaur.

Today, the Chia seed is the newest health trend. This tiny seed contains antioxidants, protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. It has all the properties of a “superfood.” The Chia seed is only a bit larger than a poppy seed, so it has a wide array of uses. It has binding properties, so it can even be used as an egg replacement in baking for people with egg allergies. One tablespoon of Chia powder dissolved in a quarter cup of water equals one egg. It’s gluten-free and contains anti-inflammatory properties. It has no discernible flavor, so you can’t have any real problem with the taste.

Looking at the nutritional content of one tablespoon of Chia seed, it’s easy to see why it’s becoming such a popular addition to the diets of so many people. It contains 60 calories, 4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein and 2.4 grams of Omega-3, 64 mg of calcium and 40 mg of magnesium. One tablespoon of Chia seed actually contains the same amount of Omega-3 as does four ounces of salmon. It is important to note that the body can absorb Omega-3 from fish more easily than plant-based Omega-3.

Because of the high fiber content of Chia, it’s of great use to people trying to lose weight, as it will help you stay fuller for a longer period of time. In addition you can keep it in your pantry for about five years. The high levels of antioxidants it contains prevent it from becoming rancid.

So what can you use Chia seed for? In addition to an egg substitute in baking (as was mentioned previously), Chia seeds can be sprinkled over salads, cereal, or yogurt. They can be used as a thickener in sauces and gravies. Because of their binding properties, Chia seeds can be used to make fruit “gels” … puree the fruit of your choice and add some ground seeds. You can use the “gel” to top ice creams or cake. Mix them into hot cereal. There are so many ways to add these tiny nutritional giants into your diet, we could go on and on.

Look for white or black/gray Chia seeds. Brown seeds are not yet ripe, so you won’t gain all the nutritional benefits you would from the white or black/gray seeds.

All of us at FoodFacts.com are excited to try the myriad of different ways to incorporate Chia seeds into our diet. We bet the Chia Pet had no idea all those years ago that it would be the precursor the latest healthy diet and nutrition news!

Read More:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/chia-nutritions-new-pet-project/2012/11/27/f3ce8ad2-245f-11e2-ac85-e669876c6a24_story_1.html