Category Archives: healthy eating

Omega-3 may be a promising intervention for childhood behavioral problems

disciplineWe’ve already come to understand that there are certain controversial ingredients that can play an important role in childhood behaviors like hyperactivity. Artificial dyes, names, have been found to cause hyperactivity and exacerbate ADHD behaviors in our kids. It is coming to light, however, that overall nutrition may play a larger role than we thought in negative childhood behaviors.

At the forefront of a field known as “neurocriminology,” Adrian Raine of the University of Pennsylvania has long studied the interplay between biology and environment when it comes to antisocial and criminal behavior. With strong physiological evidence that disruption to the emotion-regulating parts of the brain can manifest in violent outbursts, impulsive decision-making and other behavioral traits associated with crime, much of Raine’s research involves looking at biological interventions that can potentially ward off these behavioral outcomes.

A new study by Raine now suggests that omega-3, a fatty acid commonly found in fish oil, may have long-term neurodevelopmental effects that ultimately reduce antisocial and aggressive behavior problems in children.

He is a Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor with appointments in the School of Arts & Sciences and the Perelman School of Medicine.

Along with Raine, the study featured Jill Portnoy a graduate student in the Department of Criminology, and Jianghong Liu, an associate professor in the Penn School of Nursing. They collaborated with Tashneem Mahoomed of Mauritius’ Joint Child Health Project and Joseph Hibbeln of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

It was published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

When Raine was a graduate student, he, his advisor and colleagues conducted a longitudinal study of children in the small island nation of Mauritius. The researchers tracked the development of children who had participated in an enrichment program as 3-year-olds and also the development of children who had not participated. This enrichment program had additional cognitive stimulation, physical exercise and nutritional enrichment. At 11 years, the participants showed a marked improvement in brain function as measured by EEG, as compared to the non participants. At 23, they showed a 34 percent reduction in criminal behavior.

Raine and his colleagues were interested in teasing apart the mechanisms behind this improvement. Other studies suggested the nutritional component was worth a closer look.

“We saw children who had poor nutritional status at age 3 were more antisocial and aggressive at 8, 11 and 17,” Raine said. “That made us look back at the intervention and see what stood out about the nutritional component. Part of the enrichment was that the children receiving an extra two and a half portions of fish a week.”

Other research at the time was beginning to show that omega-3 is critical to brain development and function.

“Omega-3 regulates neurotransmitters, enhances the life of a neuron and increases dendritic branching, but our bodies do not produce it. We can only get it from the environment,” Raine said.
Research on the neuroanatomy of violent criminals suggested this might be a place to intervene. Other brain-imaging researchers have shown that omega-3 supplementation increases the function of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a region Raine found to have higher rates of damage or dysfunction in criminal offenders.

Raine’s new study featured a randomized controlled trial where children would receive regular omega-3 supplements in the form of a juice drink. One hundred children, aged 8 to 16, would each receive a drink containing a gram of omega-3 once a day for six months, matched with 100 children who received the same drink without the supplement. The children and parents in both groups took a series of personality assessments and questionnaires at the start.

After six months, the researchers administered a simple blood test to see if the children in the experimental group had higher levels of omega-3 than those in the controls. They also had both parents and children take the personality assessments. Six months after that, the researchers had parents and children take the assessment again to see if there were any lasting effects from the supplements.

The assessments had parents rate their children on “externalizing” aggressive and antisocial behavior, such as getting into fights or lying, as well as “internalizing” behavior, such as depression, anxiety and withdrawal. Children were also asked to rate themselves on these traits.

While the children’s self-reports remained flat for both groups, the average rate of antisocial and aggressive behavior as described by the parents dropped in both groups by the six-month point. Critically, however, those rates returned to the baseline for the control group but remained lowered in the experimental group, at the 12-month point.

“Compared to the baseline at zero months,” Raine said, “both groups show improvement in both the externalizing and internalizing behavior problems after six months. That’s the placebo effect.

“But what was particularly interesting was what was happening at 12 months. The control group returned to the baseline while the omega-3 group continued to go down. In the end, we saw a 42 percent reduction in scores on externalizing behavior and 62 percent reduction in internalizing behavior.”

At both the six- and 12-month check-ins, parents also answered questionnaires about their own behavioral traits. Surprisingly, parents also showed an improvement in their antisocial and aggressive behavior. This could be explained by the parents taking some of their child’s supplement, or simply because of a positive response to their child’s own behavioral improvement.

The researchers caution that this is still preliminary work in uncovering the role nutrition plays in the link between brain development and antisocial behavior. The changes seen in the one-year period of the experiment may not last, and the results may not be generalizable outside the unique context of Mauritius.

Beyond these caveats, however, there is reason to further examine omega-3′s role as a potential early intervention for antisocial behavior.

“As a protective factor for reducing behavior problems in children,” Liu said, “nutrition is a promising option; it is relatively inexpensive and can be easy to manage.”

Follow-up studies will include longer-term surveillance of children’s behavioral traits and will investigate why their self-reports did not match the parental reports.

Omega-3s have already shown a number of beneficial health effects. It wouldn’t surprise FoodFacts.com at all if further study does show that one of those health benefits is improved behavioral problems in at-risk children. Any number of parents of ADHD children have turned to Omega-3s as a natural treatment and have attested to its positive effects for their kids.

Foods with real nutritional value do positive things for our bodies and brains. That’s always been true. It’s our own awareness of that truth that’s really just now being recognized.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150515134827.htm

Americans still eat too much junk: 61% of food purchases are highly processed

processed-foods-and-snacksIf we look at the news, we see that American consumers have become much more aware of nutrition and diet. Our voices are being heard by food manufacturers, fast casual chains and even some fast food giants. Manufacturers are removing ingredients we find objectionable. Fast food is becoming less desirable. And Panera Bread recently committed to removing over 150 controversial ingredients from their menu items. All seems to be well in food land, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly true. FoodFacts.com was disturbed to learn that according to new information, most of the foods we buy are highly processed and loaded with sugar, fat and salt.

We like junk food so much that 61% of the food Americans buy is highly processed, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And almost 1,000 calories a day of person’s diet come solely from highly processed foods.

Not all processed food is the same, however. The USDA classifies processed food as any edible that’s not a raw agricultural commodity, so even pasteurized milk and frozen fruits and vegetables count. “It’s important for us to recognize that a processed food is not just Coca-Cola and Twinkies—it’s a wide array of products,” says study author Jennifer Poti, a research assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

So in the first study of its kind, researchers scrutinized our diets by analyzing a massive set of data of the foods we buy while grocery shopping. The stats came from 157,000 shoppers, who tracked their edible purchases with a barcode scanner from 2000-2012, for anywhere from 10 months to 14 years.

Using software that picked out words in the nutrition and ingredient labels, the 1.2 million products were placed into one of four categories : minimally processed—products with very little alteration, like bagged salad, frozen meat and eggs—basic processed—single-ingredient foods but changed in some way, like oil, flour and sugar—moderately processed—still recognizable as its original plant or animal source, but with additives—and highly processed—multi-ingredient industrial mixtures that are no longer recognizable as their original plant or animal source.

No surprise, our favorite categories are those last two. More than three-quarters of our calories came from highly processed (61%) and moderately processed (16%) foods and drinks in 2012. Best-selling products were refined breads, grain-based desserts like cookies, sugary sodas, juice, sports drinks and energy drinks.

Preferences for highly processed foods were remarkably stable over time, Poti says, which likely has implications for our health, since the study also found that highly processed foods were higher in saturated fat, sugar and salt than other purchases. But interestingly, no U.S. study has yet looked at the link between highly processed foods and health outcomes like obesity and diabetes, Poti says.

To be clear, the researchers aren’t pooh-poohing processing, per se. “Food processing is important for food security and nutrition security of Americans,” Poti says. The study wasn’t able to capture the full spectrum of our diets—loose spinach doesn’t come with a barcode, after all—and the authors acknowledge that food purchasing doesn’t always directly translate to dietary intake. But the results suggest that we might want to swap some bags of chips for, say, cans of beans. “Foods that required cooking or preparation”—like boxed pasta and raw eggs—”were generally less than 20% of calories purchased throughout the entire time period,” Poti says.

So we’re getting it, but we’re not getting it. FoodFacts.com often wonders if average consumers associate nutritional awareness with more obvious junk food … fast food and fast casual chains, soda and specific controversial ingredients that have received lots of negative publicity. Is it harder to associate a box of instant mashed potatoes with the term “junk food,” than it is to link a Big Mac to the phrase? Does everyone understand what highly processed foods actually are? Or are foods in boxes and cans somehow immune to the association because they live on our grocery store shelves?

We’ve still got so much work to do.

http://time.com/3888102/processed-food-sugar-fat/

Mediterranean diet may help stave off cognitive decline for older adults

150511124849_1_540x360We’ve been hearing more and more regarding the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. FoodFacts.com has always considered this diet as more of a lifestyle choice as it was born from the lifestyle of the Mediterranean population. Rich in vegetables, fruits, grains, and lean proteins (mostly fish), the diet allows for a wide variety of healthy food choices that offer both flavor and variety. The health benefits are truly impressive and we keep learning that there are new ones linked to Mediterranean-style eating. Here is another new addition to that already-impressive list.

Supplementing the plant-based Mediterranean diet with antioxidant-rich extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts was associated with improved cognitive function in a study of older adults in Spain but the authors warn more investigation is needed, according to an article published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.
Emerging evidence suggests associations between dietary habits and cognitive performance. Oxidative stress (the body’s inability to appropriately detoxify itself) has long been considered to play a major role in cognitive decline.

Previous research suggests following a Mediterranean diet may relate to better cognitive function and a lower risk of dementia. However, the observational studies that have examined these associations have limitations, according to the study background.

Emilio Ros, M.D., Ph.D., of the Institut d’Investigacions Biomediques August Pi Sunyer, Hospital Clinic, Barcelona, and Ciber Fisiopatología de la Obesidad y Nutrición (CIBEROBN), Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, and coauthors compared a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil or nuts with a low-fat control diet.

The randomized clinical trial included 447 cognitively healthy volunteers (223 were women; average age was nearly 67 years) who were at high cardiovascular risk and were enrolled in the Prevencion con Dieta Mediterranea nutrition intervention.

Of the participants, 155 individuals were assigned to supplement a Mediterranean diet with one liter of extra virgin olive oil per week; 147 were assigned to supplement a Mediterranean diet with 30 grams per day of a mix of walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds; and 145 individuals were assigned to follow a low-fat control diet.

The authors measured cognitive change over time with a battery of neuropsychological tests and they constructed three cognitive composites for memory, frontal (attention and executive function) and global cognition. After a median of four years of the intervention, follow-up tests were available on 334 participants.

At the end of the follow-up, there were 37 cases of mild cognitive impairment: 17 (13.4 percent) in the Mediterranean diet plus olive oil group; eight (7.1 percent) in the Mediterranean diet plus nuts group; and 12 (12.6 percent) in the low-fat control group. No dementia cases were documented in patients who completed study follow-up.

The study found that individuals assigned to the low-fat control diet had a significant decrease from baseline in all composites of cognitive function. Compared with the control group, the memory composite improved significantly in the Mediterranean diet plus nuts, while the frontal and global cognition composites improved in the Mediterranean diet plus olive oil group.

The authors note the changes for the two Mediterranean diet arms in each composite were more like each other than when comparing the individual Mediterranean diet groups with the low-fat diet control group.

“Our results suggest that in an older population a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil or nuts may counter-act age-related cognitive decline. The lack of effective treatments for cognitive decline and dementia points to the need of preventive strategies to delay the onset and/or minimize the effects of these devastating conditions. The present results with the Mediterranean diet are encouraging but further investigation is warranted,” the study concludes.

If you’re interested in trying to follow a Mediterranean diet, it’s fairly simple to do and there are resources all over the internet that can help you. Mediterranean-style eating emphasizes vegetables, fruits and grains supplemented with fish and some other lean proteins in small amounts. It allows for flexible menus — you won’t be eating the same meals repeatedly. It also allows for tremendous flavors and doesn’t ignore your desire to eat well at the expense of being healthy. And most importantly, it’s really not a diet. It doesn’t have a beginning and an end. It’s really an eating style that’s simple to incorporate into your life. It’s definitely worth a look.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150511124849.htm

Does who you eat with affect how much you eat?

food_0It’s an interesting question. Do our dining companions influence our consumption? Are there friends or family members we sit down for a meal with somehow affecting the amount of food we consume during any given meal? A new study from UNSW Australia says the answer is “Yes!”

This psychological effect, known as social modelling, leads people to eat less than they normally would if alone when their companion consumes a small amount of food.

Study lead author, Associate Professor Lenny Vartanian of the UNSW School of Psychology, says that in social situations the appropriate amount of food to eat can be unclear.

“Internal signals like hunger and feeling full can often be unreliable guides. In these situations people can look to the example of others to decide how much food they should consume,” he says.

Associate Professor Vartanian and his colleagues analysed the results of 38 studies in which the amount of food that people ate in company was measured. The results are published in the journal Social Influence.

“The research shows that social factors are a powerful influence on consumption. When the companion eats very little, people suppress their food intake and eat less than they normally would if alone,” he says.

“If the social model eats a large amount, people have the freedom to eat their normal intake, or even more if they want.”

The effect is observed in many different situations: with healthy and unhealthy snack foods, during meals, when the diner has been deprived of food for up to day, and among children, and it occurs independent of people’s body weight.

“It even occurs when the companion is not physically present and diners are simply given a written indication of what that other person ate,” says Associate Professor Vartanian.

The effect appears to be stronger in women than men, and this may be because women tend to be more concerned about how they are viewed by others when they are eating.

“Or the explanation could be more mundane, that undergraduate males participating in the research are over-enthusiastic about an offer of free food,” he says.

The research shows that the modelling effect is stronger in older children than in younger children, which also suggests that relying on external rather than internal cues for how much to eat is a learnt behaviour.

“Media reports usually focus on how portion size affects how much we eat, but this modelling effect deserves as much attention, because of its big impact on people’s ability to regulate their intake of food,” says Associate Professor Vartanian.

The next time any of us at FoodFacts.com enjoys a meal out with a friend or family member, we may not be thinking so much about the far-too-big portion size we’re being served. We may actually spend some time observing the eating patterns of our dining partners. Perhaps by staying aware of those, we’ll actually be able to control our own consumption. It’s an interesting concept and one we might be able to apply on an immediate level as part of our healthy lifestyles!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150511095612.htm

Another reason to stay away from fast food: new book claims fast food kills the gut bacteria that help you stay slim

fastfood (1)When we hear the word bacteria, our first inclination is to think of illness and things we should stay away from. Standing water, for instance, could be “crawling with bacteria.” Gas station bathrooms, uncleaned countertops, sticky seats in restaurants and bars are generally related in our minds to “nasty bacteria.” Bacteria gets a bad rap — and sometimes it should. There are harmful bacteria, but there are also beneficial bacteria. Those should be residing in our gut. What happens when those beneficial bacteria are killed off? What can cause that to happen?

While highly processed ingredients and huge portions typically aren’t doing you any favors, new information says they can also kill off the beneficial gut bacteria that help burn calories.

The findings are the result of research into the links between gut bacteria and health conducted by genetic epidemiology professor Tim Spector of King’s College London.

He found that diets composed of a relatively small number of ingredients, most of which are highly processed, are toxic to these bacteria. In fact, many of them can die off within days of beginning such a diet.

Spector will elaborate on the research in his upcoming book, “The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat,” which focuses on the role that a diverse diet plays in fostering a healthy microbes in the human body.

In one study discussed in the book, Spector enlisted his 23-year-old son, Tom, who agreed to spend 10 days eating nothing but McDonald’s chicken nuggets, fries, burgers and Coca-Cola.

“Before I started my father’s fast food diet there were about 3500 bacterial species in my gut, dominated by a type called firmicutes,” the younger Spector, a genetics student told The Australian.

“Once on the diet I rapidly lost 1,300 species of bacteria and my gut was dominated by a different group called bacteroidetes. The implication is that the McDonald’s diet killed 1,300 of my gut species,” he said.

This discovery suggested to his father that many cases of obesity may not simply be due to overeating.

“Microbes get a bad press, but only a few of the millions of species are harmful and many are crucial to our health,” Professor Spector told The Australian.

“What is emerging is that changes in our gut microbe community , or microbiome, are likely to be responsible for much of our obesity epidemic, and consequences like diabetes, cancer and heart disease,” he said. “It is clear that the more diverse your diet, the more diverse your microbes and the better your health at any age.”

Previous studies made similar findings: Professor Rob Knight of the University of Colorado Boulder, who collaborates with Spector, famously showed that transferring gut bacteria from obese humans to mice could make the rodents gain weight.

Spector’s book claims that the diversity of microbes in the human body has decreased almost a third over the last century. But there’s also good news: Foods like dark chocolate, garlic, coffee and Belgian beer may help increase gut microbes.

Some of these claims cannot be independently verified, as the noted study isn’t published publicly nor readily available in a peer-reviewed journal. In addition, while mouse studies have found links between gut microbes, dietary changes and obesity, the evidence remains less clear in humans. As Robert Knight of the University of Colorado wrote in a recent review in the British Journal of Nutrition: “It remains a challenge to identify the key pathogenic microbiota and to establish a causal (rather than associative) relationship between specific microbes or community states and a given physiological or disease phenotype.”

In large part, the idea that fast food (and highly processed ingredients of all kinds) kills beneficial gut bacteria and throws bodies out of balance, inviting excessive weight gain is a theory. It is, however, a theory on which FoodFacts.com would like to see more credible studies done. While we’re at it, we’d like to see those studies include more than fast food. We think that other highly processed foods — foods from boxes and cans — should be studied as well. Let’s remember the big coincidence surrounding the obesity crisis. It’s a relatively new phenomenon that corresponds directly with the infiltration of highly processed foods in our diets over the last 30 years or so. Our grocery shelves are lined with unnecessary highly-processed everything, fast food is available everywhere (in some areas, every few blocks) and most people aren’t taking the time to cook actual food. It does seem that we’ve traded our health for convenience, with encouragement from food manufacturers and fast food chains. While we wait for further study and exploration, let’s all remember that real food doesn’t have any ingredient list — real food IS the ingredient list. Protein, produce, grains, nuts, seeds, beans … we all know what they are. Go to the grocery store and buy ingredients.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/junk-food-kills-helpful-gut-bacteria-study-finds/

Craving snacks late at night? Blame your brain

150505121418_1_540x360We’ve all been there. It’s late. You’re watching television. Somehow, you find yourself in front of your open refrigerator or freezer or snack drawer or cabinet. “Just a little something,” you think to yourself. But inexplicably that “little something” doesn’t seem to be enough. And that is how pints of ice cream can “disappear” after 11 p.m.

What’s going on with that?

Researchers at BYU have shed new light on why you, your friends, neighbors and most everyone you know tend to snack at night: some areas of the brain don’t get the same “food high” in the evening.

In a newly published study, exercise sciences professors and a neuroscientist at BYU used MRI to measure how people’s brains respond to high- and low-calorie food images at different times of the day. The results showed that images of food, especially high-calorie food, can generate spikes in brain activity, but those neural responses are lower in the evening.

“You might over-consume at night because food is not as rewarding, at least visually at that time of day,” said lead author Travis Masterson. “It may not be as satisfying to eat at night so you eat more to try to get satisfied.”

The study, which appears in academic journal Brain Imaging and Behavior, also reports that participants were subjectively more preoccupied with food at night even though their hunger and “fullness” levels were similar to other times of the day.

Masterson, who carried out the research for his master’s thesis under faculty advisor James LeCheminant, said the intent was to better understand if time of day influences neural responses to pictures of food.

The researchers teamed up with BYU neuroscientist Brock Kirwan to use functional MRI to monitor the brain activity of study subjects while they viewed images of food. The participants viewed 360 images during two separate sessions held one week apart–one during morning hours and one during evening hours.

Subjects looked at images of both low-calorie foods (vegetables, fruits, fish, grains) and high-calorie foods (candy, baked goods, ice cream, fast food). As expected, the researchers found greater neural responses to images of high-calorie foods. However, they were surprised to see lower reward-related brain reactivity to the food images in the evening.

“We thought the responses would be greater at night because we tend to over-consume later in the day,” said study coauthor Lance Davidson, a professor of exercise sciences. “But just to know that the brain responds differently at different times of day could have implications for eating.”

Nevertheless, researchers noted that the study is preliminary and additional work is needed to verify and better understand the findings. The next research steps would be to determine the extent that these neural responses translate into eating behavior and the implications for weight management.

Masterson, who is heading to Penn State University to work on his PhD in the fall, said the study has helped him pay better attention to how food makes him feel both in the morning and the evening. And as for his late-night eating habits?

“I tell myself, this isn’t probably as satisfying as it should be,” he said. “It helps me avoid snacking too much at night.”

FoodFacts.com wonders if a greater understanding of our brains can actually help us stave off late night cravings. Can we talk ourselves out of late-night snacking? Or perhaps, at least, help ourselves understand that the “little something” we want would actually be enough for us earlier in the day? We’re not sure. But the weekend is coming and we’re going to quietly put those pints of ice cream back in our freezer and test this out!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150505121418.htm

Bacon Guacamole Flatbread from Dunkin, for breakfast

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 1.10.58 PMDunkin’s latest breakfast mash-up combines eggs, bacon and guacamole for a new twist to start your morning. While we here at FoodFacts.com didn’t have the most enthusiastic response to the new breakfast sandwich, there may be some who find this appealing. Our own take is that fast food guacamole is closer to a spread than the guacamole we personally enjoy. Not our favorite thing.

Since we know there will be folks who look at this and think differently, we thought we’d do a little exploring for you to find out what’s really in this new sandwich, besides the traditional Dunkin “un-egg-like” looking egg. Here’s what we found:

Nutrition Facts:

Calories:                          360
Fat:                                  17 grams
Saturated Fat:                5 grams
Sodium:                          850 mg

Ingredients:

Multigrain Flatbread: Whole Wheat Flour, Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Multigrain Blend [Wheat Sourdough (Water, Fermented Wheat Flour), Wheat Grains, Rye Grains, Oat Grains, Flaxseed, Rye Sourdough, Millet Seed, Teff Seed, Salt, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative)], Yeast, Soybean Oil, Sugar, Dough Conditioner [Water, Emulsifiers (Mono and Diglycerides, DATEM), Guar Gum, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Natural Flavor, Enzymes], Contains 2% or less of the following: Oat Hydrocolloid (Oat Bran, Oat Fiber), Wheat Gluten, Salt, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Natural and Artificial Flavor; Fried Egg: Egg Whites, Water, Egg Yolks, Modified Corn Starch, Natural Sauteed Flavor (Soybean Oil, Medium Chain Triglycerides, Natural Flavor), Salt, Artificial Butter Flavor (Propylene Glycol, Artificial Flavor), Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Coarse Ground Black Pepper; Guacamole Spread: Hass Avocado, Tomato, Onion, Salt, Lime Juice Concentrate, Cilantro, Jalapeno Pepper, Garlic, Jalapeno Powder; Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese: Pasteurized Part-Skim Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto (Color); Bacon: Pork, cured with: Water, Sugar, Salt, Sodium Phosphate, Smoke Flavoring, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite.May contain trace amounts of Soy.

First we need to point out the instances of natural and artificial flavor found in this list. Then we need to emphasize the use of artificial butter flavor made of propylene glycol and artificial flavor which we find especially disturbing. We also don’t understand the need for natural sauteed flavor, either. Both the natural sauteed flavor and the artificial butter flavor are in the eggs, which for some reason have a rather long list of ingredients. This seems to be a fast food trend and is something that most people should find off-putting, to say the least.

Both the nutrition facts and the ingredients are fairly standard for a fast food breakfast sandwich. There’s nothing good here, no matter how appealing the sandwich might appear.

http://www.dunkindonuts.com/dunkindonuts/en/menu/food/sandwiches/breakfastsandwiches/bacon_guacamole.html

Saturated fats may be directly damaging your heart

Coconut_Oil_Industrial_Grad_500x500What is a healthy fat? Back in the 1990s, we were all in the middle of a “no fat” craze. You could go to the grocery store and find fat-free versions of almost anything, including cookies. Given a little time and a little knowledge, we finally came to understand that fats can actually be healthy. But not every fat is good for you. FoodFacts.com has seen plenty of research discussing this. We know that our community is fairly well versed on saturated vs. unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are detrimental to heart health. There is news, however, that those adverse effects are much more direct than we may have considered.

Olive oil is universally considered a much healthier alternative to meat fat. Plant-derived oils (such as olive oil, canola oil, and vegetable oil) largely consist of unsaturated fatty acids, whereas animal fat is richer in the saturated ones. After a typical meal, carbohydrates are the primary source of energy production by the heart. Under fasting conditions, however, free fatty acids become the major energy producer. Saturated fat in a diet is known to be detrimental to heart health, but its impact on the cardiac muscle has been studied only recently.

Interestingly, while saturated fatty acids are toxic to cells, unsaturated fatty acids are not only harmless but also provide protection against the damage done by saturated fatty acids. Studies conducted on many cell lines have indicated that saturated fatty acids can cause cell death involving the “endoplasmic reticulum stress (ER stress),” a cellular process known to be involved in the development of many diseases. A new paper, “Saturated fatty acids induce endoplasmic reticulum stress in primary cardiomyocytes,” just published in open access in “Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress in Diseases” by De Gruyter Open shows that there are striking differences in the accumulation of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids in cardiac muscle cells, and that saturated fatty acids induce the death of these cells through the ER stress. In stalking contrast, unsaturated fatty acids protect the same cells from such damage.

A research group from the Montreal Heart Institute in Canada, led by Dr. Nicolas Bousette, evaluated the impact of palmitate and oleate on cellular fatty acid absorption, triglyceride synthesis, intracellular lipid distribution, ER stress, and cell death in primary cardiomyocytes. This is the first time that such phenomena were observed in cells directly derived from the heart, validating a critical role for saturated fatty acids in the development of heart diseases. Given a primary role for lipid metabolism in the development of type II diabetes, the current finding might suggest a probable role for saturated fatty acids in the development of heart conditions among diabetic patients. The current results and future research in this direction might improve our understanding on the possible connection between intracardiomyocyte lipid accumulation and the development of diabetic cardiomyopathy.

Saturated fats destroy cells. They can destroy cells in the cardiac muscle. What a great reason to reach for healthy fats for our cooking. While everything in moderation is a great rule, we should definitely be emphasizing healthy fats over unhealthy choices. It’s not hard to do and we can save our hearts from unnecessary stress.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150427101527.htm

The third hottest pepper in the world now in your french fries …. Jalapeno Ghost Pepper Fries from Wendy’s

wendys-new-logo (1)Some of us like a little heat in our food sometimes. Tabasco sauce can be fun added to a burger. Jalapenos in a taco or added to a sauce can give food a kick — and also some additional flavor. But how much heat is too much heat?

Wendy’s has introduced Jalapeno Ghost Pepper Fries. Unless they’ve added almost no real ghost peppers in this dish, odds are very few people will be able to enjoy it, even if they’re big fans of hot food. If you’ve ever watched a cooking show that features ghost peppers, you’ll see chefs boil the peppers, discard them and use just a few tablespoons of the liquid in the dish they’re preparing. Even then, the finished product can be too hot for some to handle. And with good reason.

In 2007, Guinness World Records certified that the ghost pepper was the world’s hottest chili pepper, 900.5 times hotter than Tabasco sauce; the ghost chili is rated at more than 1 million Scoville heat units (SHUs). Classic Tabasco sauce ranges from 2,500 to 5,000 SHUs. However, the bhut jolokia was superseded by the Trinidad moruga scorpion in 2012 ]which was in turn replaced by the “Carolina Reaper” on December 26, 2013.

That makes the ghost pepper the third hottest chili in the world. Imagine a pepper that’s over 900 times as hot as Tabasco sauce. Then imagine including it in a dish for fast food consumers, who may not understand the punch this pepper can pack.

Our suspicion is that there’s little, if any, ghost peppers in these new Wendy’s fries. So let’s investigate a little and see what we can find out.

Small French Fries: Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (contains one or more of the following oils: canola, soybean, cottonseed, sunflower, corn), Dextrose, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate (to maintain natural color). Cooked in Soybean Oil, Vegetable Oil (may contain one or more of the following: canola, corn, cottonseed), Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Natural Flavor, Citric Acid (preservative), Dimethylpolysiloxane (anti-foaming agent). Cooked in the same oil as menu items that contain Wheat, Egg, and Fish (where available). Seasoned with Sea Salt. Cheddar Cheese Sauce Water, Cheddar Cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes), Milk Ingredients, Cream Cheese (pasteurized milk and cream, cheese culture, salt, carob bean gum), Modified Cornstarch, Soybean Oil, Palm Oil, Whey, Sodium Phosphate, Cream, Cheese Culture, Milk Fat, Parmesan Cheese (pasteurized part-skim milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzyme), Butter, Sodium Phosphate, Salt And Sea Salt, Sodium Alginate, Carob Bean Gum, Mono & Diglycerides, Annatto And Apocarotenal (for color), Lactic Acid. CONTAINS: MILK. Cheddar Cheese, Shredded Cultured Pasteurized Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto Color, Potato Starch and Powdered Cellulose (to prevent caking), Natamycin (natural mold inhibitor). CONTAINS: MILK. Ghost Pepper Sauce Soybean Oil, Sour Cream (cream, modified corn starch, lactic acid, gelatin, guar gum, mono and diglycerides, sodium phosphate, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate [preservatives], acetic acid, citric acid, phosphoric acid, natural and artificial flavors), Buttermilk, Jalapeno Pepper, Egg Yolk, Salt, Water, Distilled Vinegar, Cilantro, Sugar, Spice, Xanthan Gum, Onion (dehydrated), Oleoresin Paprika, Garlic (dehydrated), Acetic Acid, Ghost Pepper, Natural Flavor, Citric Acid, Oleoresin Rosemary. CONTAINS: EGG, MILK. Diced Jalapenos Jalapenos.

The Ghost Pepper sauce actually contains more jalapeno pepper than ghost pepper — which is the fifth ingredient to last in the list. And that list, just for the ghost pepper sauce, contains 34 ingredients. Without any percentages given for the use of the actual pepper, it’s difficult to understand why the fries carry any sort of ghost pepper moniker. There are natural and artificial flavors used and those must be to mimic the flavor of something (probably peppers.)

The new Jalapeno Ghost Pepper Fries from Wendy’s have very little to do with ghost peppers. This is marketing ploy to generate consumer interest for a new product. While we’re sure the fries do have a kick of heat, eating these has little resemblance, if any, to eating any dish prepared with ghost peppers. Foodfacts.com likes trying new and interesting foods. We even enjoy a little heat every now and again. But we also like transparency regarding the foods we choose to consume. Wendy’s isn’t doing that here. We’d probably be saying no to this anyway, just based on the length and content of the ingredient list. But the idea that there’s barely any ghost pepper in a sauce for which the fries are named seals the deal. Not trying this one.

https://www.wendys.com/en-us/nutrition-info

Some things are better left behind … Burger King revives Chicken Fries

Tenant_burgerKing2We never understand why fast food seems bent on destroying perfectly healthy lean protein. With very few exceptions, there really aren’t any healthy chicken options on fast food menus. They generally all have far too many ingredients, many of which are controversial and bleak nutrition facts. It doesn’t make much sense.

Sometimes it’s even worse. Sometimes once a fast food chain has retired an unhealthy chicken option, they bring it back years later telling us consumers were begging them to do so. Someone, somewhere was obviously imploring Burger King to bring back Chicken Fries.
And here they are.

Just in case you missed them the first time around, FoodFacts.com wants to familiarize you with the sad facts behind the fries.

For the record, you get 9 pieces in an order of Chicken Fries. Nutrition facts here do not include any of the dipping sauces you can choose from (BBQ, Honey Mustard, Ranch, Zesty, Buffalo and Sweet & Sour). These are for the fries only:

Calories:                     290
Fat:                              17 grams
Saturated Fat:           3 grams
Sodium:                     780 mg

That’s a lot of fat for nine thin Chicken Fries. It’s also too much salt. How does that happen to chicken, anyway? Take a look:

Ingredients: UNCOOKED CHICKEN BREAST STRIP FRITTERS WITH RIB MEAT: Chicken Breast with Rib Meat, Water, Seasoning (Salt, Modified Corn Starch, Flavoring), Modified Potato Starch, Sodium Phosphates: BREADED WITH: Bleached Wheat Flour, Modified Wheat Starch, Rice Flour, Salt, Spices, Dextrose, Paprika, Monosodium Glutamate, Dehydrated Garlic, Dehydrated Onion, Soybean Oil, Maltodextrin, Natural Flavor, Extractives of Paprika. BATTERED WITH: Water, Bleached Wheat Flour, Corn Starch, Modified Wheat Starch, Maltodextrin, Potato Starch, Modified Corn Starch, Methylcellulose, Mono and Diglycerides, Leavening (Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), PREDUSTED WITH: Bleached Wheat Flour, Modified Corn Starch, Dextrose, Monosodium Glutamate, Salt, Maltodextrin, Corn Starch, Sugar, Soybean Oil, Paprika, Spice, Onion Powder, Extractives of Paprika, Garlic Powder, Turmeric, Natural Flavors. Breading set in Vegetable Oil.
Burger King might consider changing the name of Chicken Fries to MSG Fries. They certainly qualify.

Fast food menu items like Chicken Fries illustrate how processing destroys the benefits of lean protein like chicken. To be honest, we don’t care who was begging Burger King to bring Chicken Fries back. They were best left behind for good.

http://www.bk.com/menu-item/chicken-fries

http://www.bk.com/pdfs/nutrition.pdf