Category Archives: Healthy Diet

What girls eat today could influence their risk of breast cancer tomorrow

mailThere are many women for whom breast cancer is part of their family tree. Heredity can play an important role in the development of this devastating disease. But there are other women with no family history of breast cancer who are diagnosed every year having no idea how this could have happened to them.

But new research from the Harvard School of Public Health shows that what some of those women ate years ago as a teenager may have played a role.

“We know from lots of other data that that period of life is a critical period,” said Dr. Walter Willett, chair of the Nutrition Department at the Harvard School of Public Health. “And the one thing that has been seen most clearly is consumption of red meat — both fresh meat and processed meat — during adolescence is related to higher risk of breast cancer.”

Researcher Maryam Farvid reviewed the data from nearly 45,000 women. She said girls don’t have to become vegetarians.

“If you just go from having red meat once a day to once a week, you can eliminate most of the risk,” Farvid said.

Researchers recommend choosing other forms of protein like nuts, beans, poultry and fish.

“That is the one thing that parents can steer their children towards to reduce their risk of breast cancer in the long run,” Willett said.

As for weight gain, research shows women increase their risk when they add pounds after menopause.

But as teenagers, it’s complicated.

“We actually see that the leaner girls have a higher risk of breast cancer later in life,” Willet said. “It’s quite a puzzle. It’s opposite to what everyone expected.”

Figuring out these connections between diet and risk could be key to preventing breast cancer in the next generation.

But one large-scale nutrition study — funded by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation — will take time.

The Growing Up Today Study has been tracking thousands of kids closely since 1996, but the oldest ones just turned 30.

“The participants have not really been old enough to start developing breast cancer yet, but within a decade or two, they will be.”

FoodFacts.com knows that everyone in our community works hard to make sure that their children are consuming nutritious, balanced diets. When it comes to breast cancer, nutritional awareness should take a front row seat in the educational process that can help us lower not only our own risk, but our daughters’ as well.

Read more:http://www.wcvb.com/health/leaner-girls-have-higher-risk-of-developing-breast-cancer-later-researchers-say/29014540#ixzz3HIapYaWu

We finally found the needle in the haystack — a real pumpkin product!

organicslide3Since the fall season began, FoodFacts.com has been on a bit of a mission. We’ve all been inundated with absolutely everything pumpkin this year. Pumpkin is in everything — or so fast food chains and food manufacturers are trying to tell us. But, for the most part, there’s really no actual pumpkin, or “pumpkin spice” in the lattes, coffees, donuts, puddings, waffles, toaster pastries or the other plethora of products we’re being offered.

We’ve located very few of these fall-flavored products that contain the ingredient they’re named for. And honestly, of those few we have located, the ingredient lists made us shy away from them anyway.

What’s a pumpkin lover to do?

Maybe you want to try Cedar’s Pumpkin Spice Hommos. If you enjoy hommos and the flavors of fall, this product really does have it all.

Nutrition Facts:

Serving Size: 2 tablespoons

Calories:              60
Fat:                      3.5 grams
Sodium:              55 mg
Sugar:                 3 grams

Ingredients: Fresh Steamed Chickpeas, Pumpkin, Water, Sunflower Oil, Sesame Tahini, Garlic, Sea Salt, Sugar, Citric Acid, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cumin, Guar Gum.

Pumpkin. Nutmeg. No controversial ingredients. Enviable nutrition facts. We haven’t found a pumpkin product that has this much to talk about all season long!

So, if you’ve been searching for the needle in the pumpkin haystack the same way we have here at FoodFacts.com, you may want to head out to the grocery store to give Cedar’s Pumpkin Spice Hommos a try. It’s great to be able to share some news about a pumpkin product you can feel good about!

http://www.cedarsfoods.com/products/hommus/all-natural-hommus-8-oz-16-oz/pumpkin-spice/

Fighting breast cancer in the kitchen

fishWe always hear about the things we shouldn’t be doing when it comes to fighting breast cancer and other diseases and health conditions. We already know that smoking and excessive alcohol consumption contribute to a greater risk of breast cancer. We’ve also heard that we should reduce our intake of red meat for the same reasons. But what should we be consuming that can help stave off breast cancer?

So tonight, FoodFacts.com wants to take a positive approach and look at some foods that help reduce our breast cancer risk.

Oily Fish
Recently, a study published in the British Medical Journal featuring data from over 800,000 participants and 20,000 breast cancer patients linked diets high in oily fish intake to a lower risk of breast cancer. Diets featuring fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel that contain high levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids work to help prevent breast cancer. Other sources of omega-3s are leafy greens, flaxseed and walnuts.

Berries
Featuring ellagic acid — a phytochemical linked to the prevention of a variety of cancers, including breast cancer, berries can make a big impact on your healthy diet. Both strawberries and raspberries are high in ellagic acid, but there are no bad-for-you berries — so enjoy!

Beans and other high fiber foods
Foods high in fiber have been linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer. In fact, for every 10 grams of fiber, breast cancer risk has been shown to decrease by seven percent. Breast cancer risk reduction in roughly a half cup of beans — that’s a pretty big benefit!

Cruciferous vegetables
Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and kale are all members of the cruciferous vegetable family. A compound called sulforaphane is linked to fighting the spread of tumors.

Dairy
Research has shown that high levels of vitamin D and calcium lower breast density. Women with high breast density have four to five times the risk of developing breast cancer. While researchers haven’t yet determined whether it’s the vitamin D or calcium in your diet that lowers breast density, they do believe that low-fat dairy can help fight breast cancer development.

Tomatoes and other red and orange fruits and vegetables
A colorful plate has a positive effect on breast cancer. Fruits and vegetables that are high in carotenoids may reduce your risk of aggressive breast cancer by up to 20 percent. Carotenoids make for richly colored foods, so you’ll want to add fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, cantaloupe and mangos to your diet.

It’s always important to be proactive about our health. That doesn’t simply mean avoiding lifestyle habits that contribute to the risk of breast cancer. It also includes educating ourselves on the foods that can help us reduce our risks. During breast cancer awareness month, let’s get proactive and find creative and delicious ways to add the foods that can help us make a difference in our own health to the menu!

Snack spending outpaces spending on actual food here in America

junkfood on plateHere at FoodFacts.com we spend a lot of time talking about the nutritional value of food. We’re always stressing the health benefits of real, fresh foods and pointing out foods that are nutritionally vacant. Our mission is to educate consumers, encouraging nutritional awareness. New data coming out of Nielsen, however, points directly to the idea that not enough Americans are sufficiently cognizant of nutritional value.

Nielsen has revealed that Americans are spending more on snack foods – things like protein bars, chips and beef jerky, at the same time that our spending on groceries has remained almost flat.

While are overall grocery spending increased by only 1.8%, salty snack spending (chips, crackers and pretzels) increased by 4.9%, nutrition bar sales grew by 7.8%, meat snacks (like beef jerky) rose 11.2% and sales of Greek yogurt increased by 16.6%.

Nielsen polled the 490 Americans included in their research and found that these consumers said they “enjoyed” eating all the time. That could be referred to as “grazing.” The second most common reason given for eating (enjoyment was the first reason cited), these consumers said they ate to satisfy hunger between meals.

Our need to snack has even changed the way we view certain foods, said James Russo, a senior vice president of consumer insights at Nielsen. Take breakfast cereal. Instead of eating it just for breakfast, we now see items like Kix as more of a snack food. While sales of breakfast cereal are declining overall, an increasing number of us are eating Cheerios throughout the day. Forty-four percent of Americans said they ate cereal outside a meal in the past 30 days, compared to just 19 percent who said they ate a nutrition bar during that time period, according to Nielsen.

“One of the big stories here is the blurring of what is a snack and what is a meal,” Russo said.

And the number of snacks we eat at mealtimes is expected to grow by 5 percent over the next five years. That means that in 2018, Americans will be eating snacks as meals 86.4 billion times a year, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm.

NPD predicts most of that growth will come from healthier snacks, but that doesn’t mean we’re over chocolate and chips. Instead, because we’re snacking constantly, we want snacks to be available in both decadent and healthy forms. Pepsi’s recent patent for a granola bar with Pop Rocks is one food that combines these desires, but for the most part we’re looking to eat carrots and hummus around lunchtime and then grab some candy a few hours later.

Russo pointed to Americans’ contradictory feelings toward salt as an example of this dynamic. While the top snack in North America over the past 30 days was chips or crisps, the third-highest health priority for respondents was low salt/sodium, Nielsen found.

“We want indulgent snacks but we also want healthy options for a snack,” Russo said. “We’re increasingly using all these different food products to satisfy our hunger.”

So it would appear that our health perception of certain foods has helped us to identify them as actual food, instead of snacks. For instance, some people are grabbing a nutrition bar as a meal — not as a snack. And it also appears that while health and nutrition news and research is making an impression on us, that impression doesn’t seem to be strong enough to affect our spending and consumption. We know that lowering our sodium intake is important, but we’re still purchasing (and presumably consuming) salty snacks.

Someday, we are are hopeful that we’ll get a report that sales of fruit have risen more than the sale of nutrition bars. Or that sales of produce are outpacing the sales of Greek yogurt. And as far as the polling goes, we’d prefer hearing that folks are preparing an actual lunch meal than calling a snack a meal simply because the manufacturer has gone out of their way to shape their perception of a snack. Until these things become a reality, though, we’ll just continue stressing the significant nutritional differences between real foods and snacks. We might be at this for quite a while …

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/02/snack-meal-spending_n_5913166.html

Fruits and vegetables linked to better mental health

2012-10-10-FruitsVeggiesEating your five a day has been proven to do amazing things for health. But when we think of that, our thoughts generally turn to improved heart health, reduced risk of obesity, diabetes and even increased longevity. This new information, however, points to benefits that probably never crossed our minds.

A previous study suggested that consuming five portions of fruits and vegetables a day is the optimum amount for lowering the risk of death from any cause, which contradicts another study that suggested we should be eating seven portions of fruit and veg a day.

The researchers from this latest study, led by Dr. Saverio Stranges of the University of Warwick Medical School in the UK, used data from the Health Survey for England, which included nearly 14,000 adults over the age of 16.
This survey collected detailed information on the mental and physical health of the participants, as well as their health-related behaviors, demographics and socio-economic characteristics.

In addition, the team assessed the participants’ mental well-being using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, putting the top 15% of participants in the “high mental well-being” group, the bottom 15% in the low group, and those between 16-84% in the middle group.

‘The higher the veg and fruit intake, the lower the chance of low well-being’
Overall, the researchers found that high and low mental well-being were typically associated with the participants’ fruit and vegetable intake.
In detail, 35.5% of participants with high mental well-being ate five or more portions of fruits and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8% who consumed less than one portion.

Additionally, 31.4% of the individuals from the high mental well-being group ate three to four fruit and veg portions per day, and 28.4% ate one to two.
“The data suggest that [the] higher an individual’s fruit and vegetable intake, the lower the chance of their having low mental well-being,” says Dr. Stranges.

The researchers also considered other health-related behaviors – such as smoking, alcohol intake and obesity – and found that only smoking and fruit and vegetable intake were consistently associated with mental well-being.

Dr. Stranges explains:
“Along with smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption was the health-related behavior most consistently associated with both low and high mental well-being. These novel findings suggest that fruit and vegetable intake may play a potential role as a driver, not just of physical, but also of mental well-being in the general population.”

Alcohol intake and obesity were associated with low, but not high mental well-being, the researchers add.

According to the team, high mental well-being is more than simply the absence of symptoms or illness – it is the condition of feeling good and functioning well. They add that optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience and good relationships are also part of this mode of being.

According to co-author Prof. Sarah Stewart-Brown, mental illness “is hugely costly to both the individual and society, and mental well-being underpins many physical diseases, unhealthy lifestyles and social inequalities in health.”

She says enabling people to maintain good well-being is important from a research perspective.

“Our findings add to the mounting evidence that fruit and vegetable intake could be one such factor and mean that people are likely to enhance their mental well-being at the same time as preventing heart disease and cancer,” she adds.

When asked about whether the study accounted for physical activity, Dr. Stranges told Medical News Today that one of the limitations of the study was that such data “was not available in the Health Survey for England,” leaving room for further study.

What a great reason to strive to eat your five a day! FoodFacts.com believes this information gives us all a new perspective on fruit and vegetable consumption — and more great reasons to tell ourselves and all our loved ones (not just our kids) “Eat your vegetables, they’re good for you!”

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282972.php

Can Annie’s Homegrown survive General Mills’ ownership in tact?

general-mills-largeFoodFacts.com was quite surprised to hear the news that Annie’s Homegrown has been purchased and incorporated into the General Mills’ family of products. We were immediately reminded of Kashi and the Kellogg Company. While Kashi has been able to maintain some of its previous commitment to food quality, we do have to think about a long list of difficulties that have included lawsuits regarding unsubstantiated “natural” claims for many of its products. That wouldn’t have happened prior to its mainstream ownership. So what will happen to Annie’s Homegrown and can we anticipate the same sort of problems occurring with this much-loved brand?

Annie’s Homegrown specializes in good-for-your versions of guilty foods like Hamburger Helper. Now it has been bought by the company that actually makes Hamburger Helper. In mid-September, Annie’s became the sister of Betty Crocker and dozens of other non-natural brands that make up the food conglomerate General Mills.

Does this mean that Annie’s Cheeseburger Skillet meal, made from organic pasta and non-GMO ingredients, will soon become an unhealthy stew of trans fats, MSG, and the artificial flavors found in Hamburger Helper’s Cheeseburger Macaroni? Will future versions of Annie’s cute little cheddar bunny crackers contain Franken-ingredients like the de-germed yellow corn meal found in GM’s Chex Mix?

Probably not. GM may be the home of Lucky Charms and Totino’s Pizza Rolls, but it also owns the organic and natural brands Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, and Larabar. Food experts say there’s no reason GM would pay millions of dollars for these trusted brands just to destroy them. Of course, GM could make subtle ingredient changes that would slowly de-healthify its natural and organic brands to save money.

But retailers believe that, so far, this hasn’t been the case. David Clark, COO of online grocer Door to Door Organics, says despite being owned by General Mills for 15 years, Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen products still meet Door to Door’s standards, which include having no trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, growth hormones, or artificial flavors or colors. He hopes the same will hold true for Annie’s.

We hope they’re right. Even we have to admit that the General Mills’ brand family DOES in fact include natural and organic brands. The problem with that, though, is that there are many consumers who think twice before picking up a Cascadian Farm organic product BECAUSE of its General Mills’ ownership. We know that there are countless families who depend on Annie’s products for their children. They choose Cheddar Bunnies instead of Goldfish, Cheeseburger Skillet Meal instead of Hamburger Helper, Mac and Cheese with real ingredients. Annie’s Homegrown plays an important role in the lives of nutritionally aware families. It’s a role we hope continues regardless of their ownership.

http://www.prevention.com/food/smart-shopping/will-general-mills-ruin-annies-homegrown

Increasing waistlines signal bad news for the obesity crisis

waistlinesNews regarding the obesity crisis continues to be conflicting. Some reports would lead us to believe that if the obesity trend isn’t reversing, it may at least be stabilizing. So what’s actually going on? New information released last week isn’t as encouraging as some of the recent reports infer.

The prevalence of abdominal obesity and average waist circumference increased among U.S. adults from 1999 to 2012, according to a study in the September 17 issue of JAMA.

Waist circumference is a simple measure of total and intra-abdominal body fat. Although the prevalence of abdominal obesity has increased in the United States through 2008, its trend in recent years has not been known, according to background information in the article.

Earl S. Ford, M.D., M.P.H., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and colleagues used data from seven 2-year cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) starting with 1999-2000 and concluding with 2011-2012 to determine trends in average waist circumference and prevalence of abdominal obesity among adults in the United States. Abdominal obesity was defined as a waist circumference greater than 40.2 inches (102 cm) in men and greater than 34.6 inches (88 cm) in women.

Data from 32,816 men and nonpregnant women ages 20 years or older were analyzed. The overall age-adjusted average waist circumference increased progressively and significantly, from 37.6 inches in 1999-2000 to 38.8 inches in 2011-2012. Significant increases occurred in men (0.8 inch), women (1.5 inch), non-Hispanic whites (1.2 inch), non­Hispanic blacks (1.6 inch), and Mexican Americans (1.8 inch).

The overall age-adjusted prevalence of abdominal obesity increased significantly from 46.4 percent in 1999-2000 to 54.2 percent in 2011-2012. Significant increases were present in men (37.1 percent to 43.5 percent), women (55.4 percent to 64.7 percent), non-Hispanic whites (45.8 percent to 53.8 percent), non-Hispanic blacks (52.4 percent to 60.9 percent), and Mexican Americans (48.1 percent to 57.4 percent).

The authors write that previous analyses of data from NHANES show that the prevalence of obesity calculated from body mass index (BMI) did not change significantly from 2003-2004 to 2011-2012. “In contrast, our analyses using data from the same surveys indicate that the prevalence of abdominal obesity is still increasing. The reasons for increases in waist circumference in excess of what would be expected from changes in BMI remain speculative, but several factors, including sleep deprivation, endocrine disruptors, and certain medications, have been proposed as potential explanations.”

“Our results support the routine measurement of waist circumference in clinical care consistent with current recommendations as a key step in initiating the prevention, control, and management of obesity among patients.”

While body mass index statistics are pointing to a leveling out of the obesity statistics, abdominal obesity is still on the rise. FoodFacts.com takes this as bad news. Abdominal obesity is referred to as obesity for a reason. This is important information that speaks to the continuation of a crisis and begs from all of us a renewed commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140916162401.htm

90% of children in the United States are eating too much salt!

?????????????????????????????????????More news about the over consumption of salt here in the United States … and it’s definitely not what we want to hear.

American kids are eating far too much salt, mostly from processed foods sold in stores, putting them at risk for high blood pressure and heart disease later in life, federal health officials said last week.

A report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 90 percent of American children ages 6 to 18 consume too much sodium daily.

Those children eat an average of about 3,300 mg of sodium daily even before salt is added at the table, according to the CDC study based on national surveys in 2009 and 2010. That exceeds dietary guidelines calling for less than 2,300 mg per day.

The CDC noted that one in six young Americans already has elevated blood pressure – a condition closely linked to high sodium intake and obesity that can lead to heart attack and stroke.

The report found that 43 percent of the sodium came from 10 popular types of foods, including pizza, sandwiches like cheeseburgers, cold cuts and cured meats, pasta with sauce, cheese, salty snacks like potato chips, chicken nuggets and patties, tacos and burritos, bread and soup.

“Most sodium is from processed and restaurant food, not the salt shaker,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement. “Reducing sodium intake will help our children avoid tragic and expensive health problems.”

Dinner was the largest single source of sodium, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the daily intake, the study found.

The report said 65 percent of the sodium intake came from foods purchased in stores, with most of the sodium already in the products when purchased. Fast food restaurants including pizza places accounted for another 13 percent, the CDC said.

Meals offered at school accounted for 9 percent of total sodium consumption. Teenagers ate more sodium than younger children, according to the study that drew from interviews with more than 2,000 school-aged children.

The study found a need to reduce sodium “across multiple foods, venues and eating occasions,” the CDC researchers said. In particular, processed foods should have less sodium, the researchers said, citing efforts in Britain that reduced total sodium consumption
by 15 percent over seven years.

This new information is so concerning for future generations of Americans. FoodFacts.com wants to emphasize that this report echos the idea that the majority of sodium in our diets does not come from the salt shakers on our kitchen tables. Instead, sodium is coming from the processed foods on our grocery shelves, restaurants and fast food restaurants. Our kids are not strangers to any of those sources. And the list detailed here is pretty eye-opening. While we can’t confine our kids to our kitchens, we can commit to cooking more fresh, healthy foods in our homes and making them readily available to our children. Our kids’ healthy futures depend on it.

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/09/09/in-10-us-children-eat-too-much-salt-says-cdc/

Live from your local Scoop Shop …. Saturday Night Live Ice Cream flavors from Ben & Jerry’s!

promo_bandj-snlEven FoodFacts.com loves the occassional ice cream. But it has to be real ice cream made with real ingredients. You know the kind … thick and creamy. Ice cream that actually melts because when real ice cream warms up that’s what it does, leaving a wonderfully thickened liquid in the bottom of its small cup.

For consumers everywhere, Ben & Jerry’s is the favored brand of ice cream. And in many ways — like their move against GMO ingredients — there are good reasons for that. More, than anything though, consumers love hearing about the new flavors Ben & Jerry’s is constantly introducing to their customers. And that’s what we’re featuring here today.

Are you ready for some crazy deliciousness? Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is releasing four brand-new flavors in conjunction with Saturday Night Live’s 40th anniversary. The newest flavors include “Lazy Sunday,” based on the infamous Lonely Island sketch, as well as “Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch,” inspired by the crazy, but well-meaning, bow-wearing girl played by Kristen Wiig, as well as two additional yet-to-be-announced flavors. We can’t tell you yet about the other two, but a little birdie may have hinted that the remaining funny flavors will be announced in the next couple of months!

Lazy Sunday, of course, is based off of a love for delicious cupcakes. (Sorry, no red vines included!). The flavor features cake batter ice cream with chocolate and yellow cupcake pieces and chocolate frosting swirl.
And you won’t be “sorry” about the decadent Gilly flavor, made with chocolate and sweet cream ice creams, with caramel clusters, fudge-covered almonds, and marshmallow swirl.

“Our fans have a great sense of humor and we share their affinity for the comic genius of Saturday Night Live,” said Lisa Sholk, Ben and Jerry’s Marketing Manager. “We loved the challenge of creating ice cream personalities for these iconic sketches.”

For the purists among us here are the ingredients listed on the Ben & Jerry’s website.

Lazy Sunday:
Cream, Skim Milk, Water, Liquid Sugar (Sugar, Water), Dried Cane Syrup, Wheat Flour, Sugar, Egg Yolks, Soy Bean Oil, Corn Syrup, Coconut Oil, Butter (Cream, Salt), Cocoa (Processed with Alkali), Cocoa, Eggs, Vanila Extract, Chocolate Liquor, Natural Flavors, Salt, Guar Gum, Baking Powder (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Corn Starch, Monocalcium Phosphate), Turmeric (for color), Soy Lecithin, Xanthan Gum, Carrageenan.

Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch:
Cream, Skim MIlk, Liquid Sugar (Sugar, Water), Water, Corn Syrup, Cocoa (Processed with Alkali), Roasted Almonds (Almonds, Peanut Oil), Dried Cane Syrup, Sugar, Coconut Oil, Egg Yolks, Cocoa, Egg Whites, Rolled Oats (Wheat), Salt, Soy Lecithin, Vanilla Extract, Butteroil, Guar Gum, Natural Flavors, Pectin, Rice Syrup, Brown Rice Flour, Tapioca Starch, Carrageenan, Paprike Extract (color) Molasses, Baking Soda, Sea Salt, Canola Oil.

We’ve still got some work to do with both of these flavors — like getting rid of the natural flavors and the carrageenan.

If these sound good to you remember you won’t be able to buy packaged pints of your favorite SNL flavor at the local grocery store, because these flavors are only available in scoop or pint form at Ben and Jerry’s scoop shops across America.

http://www.thedailymeal.com/news/live-ben-and-jerry-s-it-s-saturday-night-live-ice-cream/61914

Don’t eat that! It will spoil your appetite! Junk food just might do exactly what your mother warned you about …

Assorted Junk FoodYou have at least one memory from your childhood featuring your mom or your grandmother or some other well-meaning adult admonishing you in a harsh tone. “Don’t eat that! It will spoil your appetite!” It might have been cookies, or candy or chips. Inevitably, it was very close to dinner time. And odds are, you weren’t pleased by the words.

As it turns out, junk food really might spoil your appetite — on a more permanent basis.

Researchers at the University of New South Wales Australia conducted several studies to see how junk food would impact rats’ weight and dietary preferences. Of course, they found the obvious—junk food “makes rats fat.” But they also determined that junk food-fed rats experienced a reduced desire for novel foods, which is important as this appetitive tendency, innate in animals, typically encourages rats’ to pursue a balanced diet.

“Eating junk food seems to change the response to signals that are associated with food reward,” commented Prof. Margaret Morris, Head of Pharmacology from the UNSW Australia’s School of Medical Sciences and a study co-author.

How did the researchers come to this conclusion?

For several weeks, the team fed one group of animals a diet of healthy rat food, and they fed another group of rats a diet that included not-so-healthy human foods such as pie, dumplings, cookies and cake. Both groups of rats were also given cherry and grape sugar water to drink. The junk food-fed rats wound up weighing 10 percent more than their healthy food-fed counterparts.

In one of the experiments, the team taught these rats to associate cherry and grape sugar water with different sound cues. The healthy rats responded appropriately to the sound cues—that is, if they had just consumed grape sugar water and then heard another cue for grape sugar water, they wouldn’t drink more of it. Junk food-fed rats, on the other hand, would respond to sound cues in an unhealthy manner—if they heard a noise associated with grape sugar water, they would drink said sugar water even if they had just consumed a lot of it. (The same findings hold for cherry sugar water.)

In other words, it appears junk food-fed rats don’t seem to realize when they’ve overindulged in a food (the flavored sugar water); instead, they respond to the sound cues just the same, whereas healthy rats stop responding to the food they just ate.

“We know a lot about food and nutrition and what we should be doing, and yet we’re getting fatter and fatter,” Morris says. “Our sort of diet appears to override an animal’s ability to know it’s just eaten something—they’re just eating indiscriminately, if you will.”

In another experiment, the researchers wanted to see whether the apparent disruption of the reward mechanism persisted after the junk food-fed rats were placed on a healthy diet. Even after a week on healthy rat chow, the formerly junk food-fed rats still acted the same way, treating both solutions indiscriminately, according to Morris.

“It suggests that whatever changes happen in the brain may persist for a while,” she says.

The study, while pertaining to rats, has a lot of troubling implications for humans. Rat behavior often gives insight into human behavior—which means we should think deeply about junk food’s psychological and public health impacts.

Science is constantly offering us new perspectives on our health and our foods. FoodFacts.com can say with confidence that those new perspectives simply uphold what nutritionists, dietitians, researchers, and educated consumers have known all along. Junk food is nutritionally vacant. What it does provide, unfortunately, are high levels of sugar, salt and fat, contributing to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. And according to the study detailed here, it can interfere with our normal tendencies to balance our diets, thus leading to more of the same. Now that’s a new perspective — not to mention yet another significant reason to stay far away from junk food.

http://www.newsweek.com/junk-food-addictive-avoid-trying-new-foods-266803