Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

Baskin-Robbins’ new Icing on the Cake flavor … we’re not sure this is actually ice cream

landingPortraitConesHave your cake and lick it too. Cake flavored ice cream with cake pieces, frosting bits, and candy confetti ribbon.

That’s how Baskin-Robbins is promoting its new Icing on the Cake flavor on their website.

We’ve got to be honest with you. FoodFacts.com isn’t really certain that this can actually be classified as ice cream. We don’t know that we’ve encountered an ice cream product that contains 72 ingredients. Some of the most interesting flavors of ice cream available don’t contain anything close to 72 ingredients.

Here they are, in all there not-so-glorious glory:

Cream, Nonfat Milk, Confetti Swirl Ribbon [Powdered Sugar (Sugar, Corn Starch), Peanut Oil, Maltodextrin, Nonpareils (Sugar, Corn Starch, Confectioner's Glaze, Yellow 5, Carnauba Wax, Red 3, Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 2), White Coating (Sugar, Partially Hydrogenated Palm Kernel and Palm Oils, Reduced Mineral Whey Powder, Whole Milk Powder, Nonfat Dry Milk, Soy Lecithin as an Emulsifier, Salt), Stabilizer (Mono and Diglycerides, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Tocopherol, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid as an Antioxidant, Soy Lecithin as an Emulsifier), Salt], Sugar, Cake Pieces (Unbleached Wheat Flour, Sugar, Palm Oil, Water, Nonfat Milk Powder, Salt, Natural Flavors), Frosted Cookie Freckles [Sugar, Coconut Oil, Buttermilk Powder, Natural Flavor, Titanium Dioxide (Color), Artificial Colors (Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Blue 1 Lake), Soy Lecithin as an Emulsifier], Vanilla Cream Flavored Base [Sugar, Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Modified Corn Starch, Titanium Dioxide (Color), Salt, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative)], Corn Syrup, Whey Powder, Emulsifier/Stabilizer Blend (Cellulose Gum, Mono and Diglycerides, Guar Gum, Carrageenan, Polysorbate 80), Natural Flavors.

22 of these ingredients are controversial — about 30% of the total ingredients are items we really don’t want to be eating. And two of them stand out above and beyond the others.

The use of confectioner’s glaze is especially unappealing. For those who are not clear on what confectioner’s glaze is — it’s actually shellac (commonly used to varnish wood surfaces). Shellac is actually a chemical secreted by female lac bugs (Laccifer lacca), a type of “scale insect.” They create shellac in order to form sheltering tunnels as they travel along the outside of trees. It is extracted for industrial use by scraping bark, bugs and tunnels off of trees in Asian forests and into canvas tubes. The tubes are then heated over a flame until the shellac melts and seeps out of the canvas, after which it is dried into flakes for sale. Before use in food or as varnish, the shellac must be re-dissolved in denatured alcohol.
The second one we take serious issue with is carnuba wax. That’s the same wax that’s used in car wax and shoe polish. And in Icing on the Cake, we get to eat it.

Is this really ice cream? We’re not so sure.

So, Baskin-Robbins, we’d really rather not have our cake and lick it too. It’s kind of toxic. Sorry.

https://www.baskinrobbins.com/content/baskinrobbins/en/products/icecream/flavors.html?popupurl=/content/baskinrobbins/en/products/icecream/flavors/icingonthecakeicecream.html

Consumer voices heard by WhiteWave: Horizon and Silk products losing the carrageenan

iStock_000003462088SmallOne of the most common questions we get here at FoodFacts.com has to do with the controversial ingredient carrageenan. The questions take on a variety of forms, but the basic idea is “What’s wrong with carrageenan, it’s just seaweed, right?” The quick answer is “Nope, wrong.” Carrageenan isn’t seaweed. It’s derived from seaweed and therefore considered a “natural” ingredient. Carrageenan is extracted from the seaweed with an alkaline solution like potassium hydroxide (used to manufacture soaps, batteries and cuticle remover solutions, as well as in the refining of petroleum and natural gas). In short, chemicals are used to produce Carrageenan.

Carrageenan, used as a thickener and emulsifier in foods and beverages, will be phased out from Horizon and Silk products over time, said Sara Loveday, a company spokeswoman.

The ingredient has been the subject of criticism in some circles, with natural-food advocates pointing to animal studies that suggest it causes gastrointestinal inflammation and other problems.

Loveday says WhiteWave still thinks carrageenan is safe, but decided to remove it because customer feedback has been so strong.

“When you get to a certain point of how vocal and strongly a consumer feels about it, we felt it was time to make a change,” she said.

It’s just the latest example of a food maker removing an ingredient customers found objectionable. Regardless of whether an ingredient is safe, companies are finding themselves under growing pressure from customer sensitivities about ingredients, especially given their ability to mobilize on social media sites.

WhiteWave, based in Broomfield, Colorado, did not immediately detail when the ingredient would be phased out of various products. But in a communication with Hari that was shared with The Associated Press, the company said carrageenan will be removed from Horizon flavored milked in the first quarter of next year. It will be removed from all other Horizon items such as eggnog, low-fat cottage cheese and heavy whipping cream, by the second quarter of 2015, the statement said.

The ingredient will be removed from its top five Silk Soy and Coconut drinks by the second quarter of 2015 and other Silk products in 2016.

FoodFacts.com is thrilled with this great news! Carrageenan is an ingredient that confuses so many consumers because it is considered natural, no matter how it is produced. It’s great to see a major manufacturer listening to consumer voices and removing it from their popular products. Consumer voices count. There’s more and more proof of that every day. We know that the consumers who are speaking their minds about carrageenan will express their approval for this move by WhiteWave with increased loyalty for their favorite products. And we know that WhiteWave will set the tone for other manufacturers to step up to the plate and follow suit.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/whitewave-remove-ingredient-horizon-silk-25042264

The most important meal of the day may not be as important as we think

222979_10150199008818407_4160974_nWe all heard it when we were kids. And our kids still hear it now. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” We also heard, “You can’t be at your best without eating breakfast” and, “Breakfast fuels your morning.” Any combination of those statements has been emphasizing to us all that our day can’t possibly begin without sitting down to a good, healthy breakfast.

But that’s actually been debated for years. Adding to the ongoing debate about what makes for good food habits is another new study refuting the long-held notion that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s certainly not the first study to suggest this, but just one in a chain that has suggested that breakfast may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Earlier this year, another team had reported that when overweight and obese participants were asked to skip or eat breakfast, both groups lost the same amount of weight. Now, the new research, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, finds that normal weight breakfast eaters also aren’t necessarily any better off than breakfast skippers, at least metabolically speaking.

The study, conducted at the University of Bath, had 33 normal weight men and women either eat a breakfast (of at least 700 calories) before 11 a.m. or skip it all together. They recorded various metabolic markers – resting metabolic rate, cholesterol, and blood glucose – over a period of six weeks to see if there were any measurable differences between the two groups.

And there really weren’t any big ones. The only discernible difference was that breakfast skippers ate fewer total calories over the course of the day, which counters the image of the breakfast skipper binging later on to make up for the loss. The downside was that they did burn fewer calories over the course of a day. Meanwhile, breakfast eaters were more active in the morning, but this mainly offset the extra calories they’d consumed for breakfast.

In terms of metabolic profiles, the two groups looked pretty close. The breakfast group, especially at the end of the six weeks, did have slightly more stable blood sugar levels over the course of a day than breakfast skippers.

“I almost never have breakfast,” study author James Betts told The Times. “That was part of my motivation for conducting this research, as everybody was always telling me off and saying I should know better.” He added that he doesn’t have plans to change his routine.

Other studies have suggested that skipping breakfast is linked to considerably poorer cardiovascular health: One large study last year, which followed nearly 27,000 men over a period of 16 years, showed that skipping breakfast was linked to a 27% increased risk of coronary heart disease. The authors said this is likely due to the connections between extended fasting and blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin resistance.

It’s worth mentioning that the current study was very small and short-term, and it will need to be repeated with more people and over a longer period of time. It may be that the effects of breakfast-skipping add up over time, and the results only evident after several years.

The bottom line is still that you should do what feels right. If you wake up famished and can’t make it more than an hour without feeling woozy, you should probably eat breakfast. But if you don’t even think about eating till midday, then you’re probably fine to skip it. There’s so much individual variation in nutrition and metabolism that the idea that eating breakfast is either a good thing or a bad thing is getting pretty hard to swallow.

It’s possible that some of the old food cliches that have become standard beliefs over generations may not be as true as we once thought. There are still a few, though, that FoodFacts.com believes might still be worth repeating to future generations. “Eat your vegetables, they’re good for you.” “You are what you eat.” “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” And while breakfast might eventually prove to NOT be the most important meal of the day, we do think there’s still something to be said for it. A healthy meal in the morning just might set the tone for the rest of the choices we make during the day.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2014/08/23/why-breakfast-may-not-be-the-most-important-meal-of-the-day/

The newest great debate: almond milk

iStock_000024341410SmallHere at FoodFacts.com we have a pretty clear idea about how consumers have embraced almond milk. There are many in our community who absolutely adore it. They go to great lengths to find brands with clean ingredient lists. They’re thrilled that there’s a common alternative to cow’s milk that isn’t soy based, that’s not lacking in flavor and is actually healthy.

Now, though, because of a simple article out of Mother Jones a great debate about the finer points of almond milk is raging across the Web.

Blame Tom Philpott, a Mother Jones food writer whose inflammatorily-titled essay, “Lay Off the Almond Milk, You Ignorant Hipsters,” has been raising ire, defensiveness, and amusement since it was published last Wednesday.

“What’s the point of almond milk, exactly?” Philpott asks in his perplexingly annoyed screed, just 16 lines before deftly answering his own question (to avoid lactose and soy, to boycott the less-than-compassionate dairy industry, and to still have something to put on your cereal). He admits that he’s a bit clueless about the whole thing. “Evidently, I’m out of step with the times on this one. ‘Plant-based milk’ behemoth White Wave reports that its first-quarter sales of almond milk were up 50 percent from the same period in 2013,” he writes, adding that the company’s CEO announced during a May earnings call that almond milk now makes up about two-thirds of the country’s plant-based milk market, beating out soy milk (which has a 30-percent market share) and other players like rice and coconut milks.

Still, he goes on to swipe at almond-milk drinkers for being fooled into thinking the following: that the beverage is packed with nutrition, that it’s free of additives, and that it’s worth its price, concluding that “the almond-milk industry is selling you a jug of filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds.” Which is not quite a shocker to anyone who has ever bothered to read a nutrition label.

So what is Philpott — who chooses to drink the fermented milk product kefir — so worked up about, exactly? It’s kind of unclear. But that hasn’t stopped all sorts of foodies, vegans, and lactose-intolerant folks from weighing in.

Celeb nutritionist and NYU professor Marion Nestle also stands with Philpott, responding to his piece in an email to Yahoo Health. She notes, “Oh what fun. I couldn’t have done this better myself.” Regarding almond milk being a good option for those with concerns about dairy or soy, she says, “Option for what? Milk is not essential in the diet. The nutrients it provides are provided by many other foods. If people like the taste of almond milk it can be used like cow’s milk, but its nutritional value is pretty low unless people drink a lot of it.”

Beth Greenfield, over at Yahoo, raised a few points with a little help from Matt Ruscigno, a California-based vegan nutritionist and athlete (who agrees, incidentally, that there’s some marketing magic involved in selling a product that is mostly water):

Hipster factor: “It’s a million-dollar market — it’s not just hipsters,” Ruscigno wisely notes. “It’s mostly moms and everyday people looking for an alternative to dairy milk out of concern for animals, lactose intolerance, and other health concerns.”

Environmental footprint: Philpott has a fixation on almonds this week; on Monday, he wrote about how increased demand for the nut is contributing to California’s drought. Now he’s worried about all the water in almond milk cartons. “The water that’s added isn’t wasted, we are drinking it,” Ruscigno points out. “It’s not like beef, where it becomes runoff. He acts like it’s the same.” And what about the cruelty factor of dairy? Philpott admits that the industry of producing cow milk is “nasty.” Not nasty enough to quit the kefir, apparently.

Inflated price: “If we are talking about value, we have to point out that dairy is subsidized by the U.S. government in almost every step,” Ruscigno notes. “It’s artificially cheaper. If that wasn’t the case, then dairy milk would cost way more. It’s unfair to only point to almond milk’s expenses and ignore the big culprit.”

Additives: Philpott calls out commercial almond milk for containing additives such as carrageenan, a seaweed-derived thickener with much-debated health concerns, and vitamins (such as D and the synthetic A palmitate, the latter of which is found in kefir, by the way). Fine. True enough. But there’s a really, really easy solution: Make your own almond milk. It’s slightly cheaper, more delicious, and a cinch to pull off. Here are two awesome options from nut-milk-loving friends, one basic, the other a bit fancy. As for the missing nutrients? Make it up in other places. Simple.

FoodFacts.com would like to point out that while it is certainly true that many mainstream brands of almond milk do, in fact, contain additives like carrageenan, it is absolutely possible to find brands that do not. And while Ms. Greenfield is correct that it’s pretty simple to make your own almond milk — and we know many people who do — if you aren’t so inclined, it’s not incredibly difficult to find a brand without additives.

In regard to almond milk being “filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds” and not much more, Philpott is being rather short-sighted. Almond milk isn’t cow’s milk, so its nutritional benefits are going to be different from its counterpart. That doesn’t make almond milk nutritionally vacant. Quite the contrary, it does have its unique benefits. If Philpott looked a bit closer he would find that almond milk is heart healthy, containing no cholesterol or saturated fat and being high in Omega 3 fatty acids. It’s high in the antioxidant vitamin E so it may help to prevent cancer and stave off signs of aging. It’s also rich in flavanoids that may help prevent degenerative diseases like osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes. While cow’s milk is fortified to provide vitamins and minerals like copper, zinc, iron, magnesium, manganese, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and selenium, all of these occur naturally in almond milk. And let’s not forget that almond milk is naturally low in fat and calories, containing only 40 calories and 3 grams of fat per serving — and that fat is healthier fat than the fat we consume from cow’s milk.

So while Marion Nestle is correct that cow’s milk is not essential to the human diet, for those humans who like pouring milk over their cereal or their oatmeal or in their coffee or tea who are looking for an alternative, we still think there are plenty of benefits to almond milk. There’s really no debating it.

https://www.yahoo.com/health/almond-milk-the-great-divider-92163928887.html

Does diet soda affect your heart?

Diet coke.jpgIt’s made almost completely from chemicals. It’s bad for your teeth. It might very well contain benzene. The artificial sweeteners it contains might actually make you gain weight.

These are just a few of the problems that surround diet soda. Doesn’t seem to matter though. People drink it no matter how much bad press it gets. But there’s new research coming out that might help people understand that diet soda isn’t a better option. In fact, if you overdo it, you might end up with heart troubles later in life.

Postmenopausal women who drink two or more diet drinks a day are more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, and a higher BMI than those who consume diet drinks in moderation or not at all. The Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study looked at nearly 60,000 women with an average age of 62.8 years and found a relationship between diet drink consumption and a number of cardiovascular problems.

Women who consumed two or more diet drinks daily were not only 30 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes, they were 50 percent more likely to die from some sort of cardiovascular disease, when compared with women who never or rarely drank diet drinks.

The study, which is the largest study to look at the relationship between diet drinks and heart health, took into account various factors like participants’ BMI, physical activity levels, and other lifestyle choices.
A 2009-10 survey by the Centers for Disease Control found nearly one-in-five Americans drink diet sodas on any particular day and around half of those are drinking over two cups a day.

“Our findings are in line with and extend data from previous studies showing an association. We were interested in this research because there was a relative lack of data about diet drinks and cardiovascular outcomes and mortality,” researcher Ankur Vyas of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics said in a release. “This could have major public health implications.”

Other studies have also suggested soft drinks can be harmful for older women. One study showed colas, both diet and regular, are associated with lower bone density– a major concern for older women, who are at risk for osteoporosis.

And while people may think “diet” means a healthier product, another study pointed to the artificial sweeteners in these low-calorie drinks as the cause of metabolic syndrome and heart disease.

It’s no secret that FoodFacts.com isn’t a diet soda fan. (Actually we’re not soda fans in general, diet or regular.) We can easily think of many other beverages that will quench our thirst and don’t see why anyone would consume something with an ingredient list that belongs in a lab. Just because it’s labeled “diet” doesn’t automatically make it better and this new research is just one more reason. We’d like to see all consumers become more conscious about their food choices. A little more thinking might just mean fewer diet drinks and better health for so many!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/29/diet-drinks-bad-for-health_n_5051388.html

The internet, food activism and food manufacturers

Internet influence on consumers is everywhere. Online information has changed so much about how we approach purchases of all kinds. We’re more educated, more aware and definitely more discerning about the products and services on which we choose to spend our money. And because of the internet, we can be a lot more vocal about our likes and dislikes – and our product requirements.

That fact is especially true when it comes to food purchases. American consumers are paying much closer attention to the foods and beverages they consume. And we’re letting manufacturers know loud and clear what we DON’T expect to find in our foods. Online petitions and popular blogs – as well as FoodFacts.com (our own website), are helping consumers learn more than they ever have before about the ingredients in the food products in our grocery stores. In addition to a much more detailed ingredient education, those resources are giving us all a bigger voice that is clearly being heard by food manufacturers.

Earlier this year, for example, PepsiCo Inc. said it would stop using brominated vegetable oil in Gatorade and find a another way to evenly distribute color in the sports drink. That action was based on an online petition started by a teenager from Mississippi.

Last year, Starbucks said it would stop using a red dye made of crushed bugs based on comments it received “through a variety of means,” including an online petition, and switch to a tomato-based extract.

Kraft Foods plans to replace artificial dyes with colors derived from natural spices in select varieties of its macaroni and cheese, a nod to the feedback it’s hearing from parents.

The internet has made consumers much more powerful in the eyes of food manufacturers. It’s helped our voices be heard and our demands be met. Online resources have certainly created a shift in how those manufacturers respond to their customers.

Ali Dibadj, a Bernstein analyst who covers the packaged food and beverage industry, says the changes reflect a shift from “democratization to activism” by consumers.

“It used to be that people would just decide not to buy the product. Now they’re actually agitating for change,” Dibadj said. “There’s a bullhorn – which is the Internet – so you can get a lot of people involved very quickly.”

There are no numbers tracking how many companies are reformulating products in response to consumer demand. But even if recipe changes aren’t in direct response to petitions or blogs, executives understand that ingredients can become a liability once they fall out of favor with the public.

High-fructose corn syrup, for example, has gained a negative image in recent years and has been blamed for fueling bad eating habits. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a health advocacy group, says the sweetener is no more harmful than ordinary sugar in large amounts. But Kroger Co. decided to remove it from store-brand cereals following surveys with consumers in 2011.

The supermarket chain isn’t alone. Over the past decade, the use of high-fructose corn syrup in packaged foods and drinks has fallen 18 percent to 6.1 million tons last year, according to market researcher Euromonitor International.

Not all companies are making changes, at least not right away. The same teenager who called for the removal of brominated vegetable oil in Gatorade, for instance, is now taking aim at Coca-Cola’s Powerade, which also contains the ingredient in select varieties. As of Tuesday, her newest petition had more than 57,000 supporters.

In a statement, Coca-Cola noted that all its ingredients comply with regulations. But the company also said it is “always looking for ways to evolve” its formulas.

Another petition that asks Mars Inc. to remove artificial colors from M&Ms had more than 141,000 signatures. In an emailed statement, the privately held company stressed the safety of its ingredients.

As the internet continues to evolve, it places more and more power into the hands of the consumer. No manufacturer likes bad press. And news travels very quickly through online channels. Food manufacturers are adapting to the idea that our opinions are more influential than ever and that our voices can be heard quickly by millions. That’s all good news for us, as we continue to express our nutritional and ingredient requirements to the food industry.

http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_289563/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=H9WkyLl7

A glass of wine a day may help keep depression away

FoodFacts.com has reported in the past on the links between moderate red wine consumption and a variety of health benefits. We’ve seen how red wine may help lower our risks for cardiovascular problems. In addition, moderate consumption may help lower cholesterol levels and help control blood sugar levels. But now, new research suggests that wine may also help reduce the risk for depression. This is according to a study published in the journal of BMC Medicine.

Researchers from Spain analyzed 2,683 men and 2,822 women over a 7-year period from the PREDIMED Trial – a study that conducts research around nutrition and cardiovascular risk.

All participants were between 55 and 80 years of age, with no history of depression or alcohol-related problems when the study began.

They were required to complete a validated 137-item food frequency questionnaire annually in order to assess their alcohol intake, and their mental health and lifestyle was analyzed throughout the study period.

The findings of the study revealed that those who drank moderate amounts of alcohol (5 to 15 g a day) were less likely to suffer from depression. Additionally, those who drank a moderate amount of wine on a weekly basis (two to seven small glasses a week), were found to have an even lower risk of depression. The researchers say these results remained the same even when accounting for lifestyle and social factors, such as marital status, smoking and diet.

However, further findings suggest that wine consumption exceeding seven glasses a week could increase the risk of depression. The study authors add that greater alcohol consumption was more frequently attributed to males, with 88% drinking more than 15 g of alcohol each day.

Previous research from the PREDIMED trial has suggested that low-moderate amounts of alcohol could protect against heart disease, and the study authors say the process may be linked: Unipolar depression and cardiovascular disease are likely to share some common pathophysiological mechanisms. Moderate alcohol intake, especially alcohol from wine, has been repeatedly reported to be inversely associated with the incidence of cardiovascular disease. Some of the responsible mechanisms for this inverse association are likely to be involved also in a reduced risk of depression.

Once again, FoodFacts.com is reminded that wine is an art, developed to be enjoyed in moderation – whose gift is a wide array of health benefits. While this new information certainly sets defined parameters for consumption, it also allows us to add another valuable item to the list of health benefits we can derive from the moderate and considered enjoyment of wine!

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265401.php

Smart Snacks in School initiative announced by the USDA

FoodFacts.com followed the first phase of the new USDA school cafeteria standards last summer, as public schools throughout the United States revamped their menu offerings for our children. New menus offered meals with reduced sodium content, less saturated fat and trans fat. In addition whole grains became standard and fat-free and low-fat milk products replaced their full-fat counterparts. Today, the USDA announced phase two of their healthier school cafeteria efforts, Smart Snacks in School.

These new nutrition standards extend the original efforts, replacing candy bars and potato chips in school cafeterias with granola bars and baked chips.

In 2010, The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act removed junk foods and high calorie beverages from school vending machines. Subsequently, the USDA set up nutrition standards for all foods sold in American schools. The new “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards will be published later this week in the Federal Register.

The new standards are based on existing standards implemented in thousands of schools across the country and recommendations from the Institute of Medicine. The aim of the new nutrition standards is to promote much healthier eating in American schools.

The “Smart Snacks in School” plans include:
- Encouraging healthier foods, such as vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and whole grains low in fat.
- Providing food items that give children all the nutrients they need, ensuring they are low in fats, sugars and sodium.
- Varying standards, such as portion size and caffeine content, according to age group.
- Allowing parents to still make packed lunches for their children and certain school traditions, like bake sales.
- Giving school food and drink companies a full year to make the changes. The USDA will offer help in training and technical assistance.
- Ensuring that the standards are only implemented and enforced on school campuses during normal school hours. Food and drinks sold on campus during special events after school hours don’t need to follow the new guidelines.
- Allowing states and schools that already have stricter policies to maintain them.
The USDA says it is doing its best to improve the nutritional standards of the food kids are eating in schools, as well as providing families with advice on what a healthy meal is. This policy and those like it are aimed at helping the childhood obesity epidemic.

FoodFacts.com is encouraged by the steps the USDA has taken to improve the quality and nutritional value of the foods made available to our children in schools. We are pleased to see new initiatives that continue the strides that have already been made to help our children make healthier food choices during their school day. It has always been FoodFacts.com’s mission to bring greater nutritional awareness to every generation. While the USDA is taking much-needed actions to improve nutritional quality of the foods served in our schools, educated consumers everywhere can help spread nutritional awareness to every generation of our population. Helping our kids understand what’s on nutrition labels and ingredient lists for the products they consume will help take the USDA’s initiatives even further.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262609.php

Proposed ban on large-sized sugar-sweetened beverages may impact our population in a positive way

FoodFacts.com has been following the proposed ban on the sale of large-sized sugary beverages in New York and bringing our community any news we can find on this controversial proposition. There are many conflicting opinions about the proposed legislation, but in March, the New York State Supreme Court struck down the plan. It is currently under appeal.

While the issue is being pondered by the judges, further research into the effects of such a ban nationwide is being conducted. Coming out of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, one such study presents much food for thought on the subject.

The research is showing that the restriction of the consumption of large sugar-sweetened beverages would affect 7.5% of Americans on any given day … and an even larger percentage among those who are overweight. This would include 13.6% of overweight teenagers. The study also points out that such restrictions would not discriminate against the poor, finding that low-income individuals would not be disproportionately affected.

This study analyzed national data. Researchers note that the results suggests that bans of this nature would be a strong measure in obesity prevention even if they are implemented in various regions, instead of across the nation. Over 19,000 dietary records from National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from the years 2007 through 2010 were analyzed.

60.5% of Americans consumed sugary drinks on a daily basis. 7.5% purchased those drinks from food establishments in 16 ounce or larger portions on any given day. That figure rose to 8.6% among those who are overweight. This increased again to 13.6% among overweight teenagers.

Since the legislation has not been passed, the researchers do not yet have a model for the scope of change it might actually cause. If passed, consumers would be free to drink sugary beverages in smaller sizes as much as they would like. Restaurants would seem to have the option of offering free refills or discounts on refills. But these assumptions aren’t certain, so the researchers used different scenarios to estimate how the policy might cut calories and consumption.

They propose that reasonably, 80% of large-sized sugary-beverage drinkers would downsize to a 16-ounce sized portion and that 20% may consume two drinks of that size. In this scenario, adults would cut 63 calories from their diets daily and children and teens would cut 58 calories. Both groups would remove three to four teaspoons of sugar from their daily consumption.

Simple calorie reductions like these can have a tremendous effect on excess calories consumed by Americans – especially our nation’s teens.

Another recent study coming out of Harvard has illustrated that teenagers are more likely to underestimate the calories they are consuming from fast food restaurant offerings. While soda consumption was not a specific focus of this study, the findings do underscore the propensity of teens towards more caloric fast food options.

The researchers also feel that the portion size restrictions in food establishments could influence behaviors within American homes (where most sugary beverages are actually consumed). Keep in mind that at McDonald’s, a 12-ounce beverage is child-sized, 16-ounce drinks are small, 21-ounce drinks are actually medium and 32 ounces are large-sized. It’s very possible that those serving sizes are, in fact, causing us to pour larger servings automatically when we’re in our own kitchens. Between the years 1999 and 2004, an average American teenager consumed 301 calories in sugar-sweetened beverages every day. That’s 13% of their total daily calories. In order to burn those 301 calories, they would need to walk more than five miles.

While the debate regarding the proposed ban on large-sized sugar-sweetened beverages continues in the New York Supreme Court, studies like this certainly raise some important points and possibilities. It gives us all another viewpoint to ponder as we await a final decision. FoodFacts.com will continue to keep you up to date on important news on this significant issue and its nationwide implications.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/261902.php
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57586093/teens-most-guilty-of-underestimating-calories-in-fast-food-study-reveals/