Overindulging in December may not be quite so bad. Arctic blasts can carry health benefits!

brown-fat_mainEvery winter holiday season, everyone talks about how they’ll be taking off the excess weight they will undoubtedly gain during the holiday season. Let’s face it, it’s our favorite food season, featuring all of our favorites in large quantities at every meal. So we’re alrealdy aware that we’ll be gaining weight. We give ourselves permission every year. But some may have noticed that the effects of their excesses may not be as damaging as they expected.

Those who overindulged during the holidays may want to get a shot of cold air to kick-start some extra fat-burning activity for the new year.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found that exposure to cold temperatures increases levels of a newly discovered protein that is critical for the formation of brown fat, the type of fat in our bodies that generates heat. With extended exposure to chilly air, the protein, called transcription factor Zfp516, also helps the more abundant white fat in our bodies — the kind that stores excess energy — become more similar to brown fat in its ability to burn energy.

The researchers found that mice with boosted levels of the Zfp516 protein gained 30 percent less weight than control mice when both groups were fed a high-fat diet.

The new findings, published online Jan. 8 in the journal Molecular Cell, shed light on a type of fat that has drawn increased attention from researchers in the past five years.

“Knowing which proteins regulate brown fat is significant because brown fat is not only important for thermogenesis, but there is evidence that brown fat may also affect metabolism and insulin resistance,” said principal investigator Hei Sook Sul, UC Berkeley professor of nutritional science and toxicology. “If you can somehow increase levels of this protein through drugs, you could have more brown fat, and could possibly lose more weight even if eating the same amount of food.”

White fat, brown fat, good fat, bad fat
Unlike white fat, which stores excess energy, brown fat burns energy to keep us warm. Brown fat gets its hue from relatively high levels of mitochondria, the cell’s power station. In humans, brown fat was thought to be present only in infants, but stores of it were recently discovered in adults around such vital areas as the heart, brain, neck and spinal cord.

The study authors said that because we generally live our lives in controlled, ambient temperatures, our need for brown fat has decreased over time.
“It has been noted that outdoor workers in northern Finland who are exposed to cold temperature have a significant amount of brown fat when compared to same-aged indoor workers, but overall, the percentage of brown fat in adults is small compared to white fat,” said Sul. “We also know that obese people have lower levels of brown fat.”

The UC Berkeley team discovered that the Zfp516 protein activates uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1), found only in the mitochondria of brown fat and involved in the generation of heat.

“The amount of UCP1 produced by brown-like fat cells will be lower than that of classical brown fat, but since 90 percent of the fat in our bodies consists of white fat, finding a way to make that tissue more brown-like could have a significant impact,” said Sul.

Making white fat into brown-like fat
When the researchers disabled the gene for Zfp516 in mouse embryos, the embryos did not develop any brown fat. In another experiment, researchers found that mice with higher levels of Zfp516 protein were able to convert more white fat tissue into brown-like fat when exposed to cold air. After four hours in a room kept at 4 degrees Celsius (39.2 degrees Fahrenheit), the body temperature of the mice with the overexpressed Zfp516 protein was, on average, 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than a control group of mice with normal levels of the protein.

“That difference in body temperature is huge for the mice,” said study co-lead author Jon Dempersmier, a Ph.D. student in nutritional science and toxicology. “The brown-like fat, the kind converted from white fat tissue, is inducible by cold. Classical brown fat, the kind in babies and prevalent in rodents, always has a ton of UCP1 and mitochondria in order to perform thermogenesis.”

The mice with overexpressed Zfp516 protein also gained less weight than their unaltered littermates after both groups ate a high-fat diet for four weeks.

“This suggests that the transgenic mice were protected from diet-induced obesity,” said Sul. “This protein could become an important target for research into the treatment and prevention of obesity and obesity-related diseases.”

The study authors noted that there’s an active area of research in the relationship between brown fat and diabetes. Higher levels of brown fat are associated with greater sensitivity to insulin. Resistance to insulin leads to Type 2 diabetes.

The researchers noted that there are many steps between discovering the protein in mice and determining whether it can be useful in humans, but they said that having a clear target is an important development.

“Brown fat is active, using up calories to keep the body warm,” said Dempersmier. “It’ll burn fat, it’ll burn glucose. So the idea is that if we can harness this, we can try to use this in therapy for weight loss and for diabetes.”

So while we’re freezing during this arctic blast and we can hardly find a spot on the map of the U.S. that hasn’t been effected, FoodFacts.com suggests we all look on the bright side. If you’ve got any left over holiday weight hanging around, current weather conditions may just help you shed them before the weather warms up!!!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150108130055.htm

Another super benefit from a favorite superfood: avocado may improve cholesterol levels for the overweight and obese

Avocado on whiteAvocado is often referred to as a superfood. Packed with nutrition, avocados provide the healthy fats our bodies need as well as a long list of beneficial vitamins and minerals. They also add great taste and texture to a variety of dishes and are quite flavorful all by themselves. Avocados already put the “super” into “superfoods” … but today it got even better.

Eating one avocado a day as part of a heart healthy, cholesterol-lowering moderate-fat diet can help improve bad cholesterol levels in overweight and obese individuals, according to new research published in theJournal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers evaluated the effect avocados had on traditional and novel cardiovascular risk factors by replacing saturated fatty acids from an average American diet with unsaturated fatty acids from avocados.

Forty-five healthy, overweight or obese patients between the ages of 21 and 70 were put on three different cholesterol-lowering diets. Participants consumed an average American diet (consisting of 34 percent of calories from fat, 51 percent carbohydrates, and 16 percent protein) for two weeks prior to starting one of the following cholesterol lowering diets: lower fat diet without avocado, moderate-fat diet without avocado, and moderate-fat diet with one avocado per day. The two moderate fat diets both provided 34 percent of calories as fat (17 percent of calories from monounsaturated fatty acids/MUFAs), whereas the lower fat diet provided 24 percent of calories as fat (11 percent from MUFAs). Each participant consumed each of the three test diet for five weeks. Participants were randomly sequenced through each of the three diets.

Researchers found:
Compared to the baseline average American diet, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) — the so called ‘bad cholesterol’ — was 13.5 mg/dL lower after consuming the moderate fat diet that included an avocado. LDL was also lower on the moderate fat diet without the avocado (8.3 mg/dL lower) and the lower fat diet (7.4 mg/dL lower), though the results were not as striking as the avocado diet.

Several additional blood measurements were also more favorable after the avocado diet versus the other two cholesterol-lowering diets as well: total cholesterol, triglycerides, small dense LDL, non-HDL cholesterol, and others.

These measurements are all considered to be cardio-metabolic risk factors in ways that are independent of the heart-healthy fatty acid effects, said Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., senior study author and Chair of the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee and Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, in University Park, Pennsylvania.

“This was a controlled feeding study, but that is not the real-world — so it is a proof-of-concept investigation. We need to focus on getting people to eat a heart-healthy diet that includes avocados and other nutrient-rich food sources of better fats,” Kris-Etherton said.

“In the United States avocados are not a mainstream food yet, and they can be expensive, especially at certain times of the year. Also, most people do not really know how to incorporate them in their diet except for making guacamole. But guacamole is typically eaten with corn chips, which are high in calories and sodium. Avocados, however, can also be eaten with salads, vegetables, sandwiches, lean protein foods (like chicken or fish) or even whole.”

For the study researchers used Hass avocados, the ones with bumpy green skin. In addition to MUFAs, avocados also provided other bioactive components that could have contributed to the findings such as fiber, phytosterols, and other compounds.

According to researchers, many heart-healthy diets recommend replacing saturated fatty acids with MUFAs or polyunsaturated fatty acids to reduce the risk of heart disease. This is because saturated fats can increase bad cholesterol levels and raise the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The Mediterranean diet, includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish, and foods rich in monounsaturated fatty acids–like extra-virgin olive oil and nuts. Like avocados, some research indicates that these not only contain better fats but also certain micronutrients and bioactive components that may play an important role in reducing risk of heart disease.

FoodFacts.com loves avocados. There is always a new way to add them to your diet. Mashed avocado is a great replacement for mayonnaise in tuna and chicken salad. Avocado vinaigrette is a wonderful – and easy to prepare – salad dressing. Sliced avocado is a great addition to sandwiches. You can mix avocado into mashed potatoes or cauliflower. We could go on. And so can you … These impressive new findings give us even more motivation to continue to incorporate this incredibly flavorful superfood into our healthy lifestyle!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150107204818.htm

Attention Girl Scout Cookie Lovers: Meet the new gluten free Toffee-Tastic

mtc_toffeeHere at FoodFacts.com, we’ve devoted some blog space to the unfortunate state of our much-beloved Girl Scout cookies. We’ve actually apologized for that — but honestly, those adored, ever-anticipated treats have honestly not lived up to their highly esteemed association.

Luckily the Girl Scouts have been listening — not necessarily to us — but to the voices of consumers around the country. And their newest introduction is actually something we can talk about more positively — even if it is a cookie.

Toffee-tastic is the new gluten-free Girl Scout cookie you’ll be able to enjoy this cookie season. And honestly, for the first time in a long time, we can say that we might just indulge — a little, anyway.

So here are the facts for one serving (or two cookies) of the newest Girl Scout cookie — the Toffee-Tastic:

Calories:                        140
Fat:                                 7 grams
Saturated Fat:               4 grams
Sugar:                            7 grams

These nutrition facts are pretty typical for cookies. Just two though — hopefully that serving size will change. In our own experience, most folks eat three or four for a serving.

As you might imagine, though, it’s the ingredients that interest us most. So here are the Toffee-Tastic ingredients:

Rice Flour, Tapioca Starch, Sugar, Butter (Cream, Salt), Palm Oil, Brown Rice Flour, Butter Toffee Bits (Sugar, Butter (Cream, Salt), Corn Syrup, Soy Lecithin, Salt), Invert Sugar, Contains 2% or less of Salt, Soy Lecithin, Xanthan Gum, Baking Soda

If we were going to indulge in unnecessary calories from baked goods and didn’t have the choice of home cooked goodies, we could actually eat these cookies. We don’t often say that. But this time, we really can.

We often find that gluten-free products are actually more appealing than their mainstream counterparts. That’s certainly the case for Toffee-Tastic cookies. So if you’ve been off Girl Scout cookies since you started reading ingredient lists, you can take a second look here. Just make sure you consume the actual serving size so the numbers we reported above actually apply!

http://www.girlscouts.org/program/gs_cookies/meet_the_cookies.asp

Dunkin Donuts Introduces the Chocolate Croissant

dunkinchocolateWhen we think of chocolate croissants we tend to think of small, intimate cafes, steaming cups of cafe au lait and a leisurely, relaxed experience we can slowly savor. We don’t need to be in Paris, we can be down the street at a local coffee house. But that indulgent chocolate croissant does need to be part of a relaxing and flavorful experience.

So please forgive FoodFacts.com if we didn’t relate to Dunkin Donuts introducing their new Chocolate Croissant. For us, it removes the experience from the food. Plus this chocolate croissant is fast food so we’re suspicious about it.

For anyone who might find this new offering appealing, we thought we’d take a look.

Here are the nutrition facts from the Dunkin website:

Calories:                         320
Fat:                                 19 grams
Saturated Fat:                8 grams
Sugar:                            15 grams

If it makes a difference, the Chocolate Croissant is under 400 calories. So technically, you could start your day with this and not throw off every other meal you plan to eat. But you will be consuming more fat than you would if you started your day with two scrambled eggs. And you’ll be eating just about 4 teaspoons of sugar. We know there are items on the Dunkin menu that carry nutrition facts that are worse. But that doesn’t make the Chocolate Croissant an ideal breakfast or snack.

Here are the ingredients:
Croissant: Pastry: Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Ascorbic Acid, Folic Acid, Enzymes), Water, Margarine [Vegetable Oils (Palm, Modified Palm, Canola), Water, Sugar, Mono and Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Artificial Flavor, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D, Beta Carotene (Color)], Sugar, Yeast, Dough Conditioner (Flour, DATEM, Calcium Carbonate, Ascorbic Acid, Enzymes), Salt, Cellulose Gum, Wheat Gluten, Artificial Flavor; Chocolate Filling: Sugar, Vegetable Oils (Palm, Soy), Cocoa Powder processed with alkali, Corn Starch, Soy Lecithin, Artificial Flavor, Tocopherol (Antioxidant); Glaze: Corn Syrup, Water, Sugar, Contains less than 2% of the following: Pectin, Molasses, Sorbic Acid and Sulfiting Agents (to preserve freshness), Agar, Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavor. May contain traces of Milk, Eggs and Tree Nuts (Almonds, Pecans).

Artificial flavor gets multiple mentions in this list. Even once is too much for us, so this is really unappealing. We’re also not fond of the use of sulfites.

We’re not going to get the experience we’re looking for with this Chocolate Croissant. We’re not excited about the nutrition facts and we’re less excited about the ingredients — not to mention we’re not going to enjoy that leisurely moment involving an actual French bakery creation and a steaming hot cafe au lait sitting by the window of a Dunkin Donuts.

http://www.dunkindonuts.com/content/dunkindonuts/en/menu/food/bakery/other/other_bakery.html?DRP_FLAVOR=Chocolate+Croissant

Fast food giants attempt to improve their image — and food — in the new year

fastfoodIt’s always gratifying to hear about food manufacturers adjusting their products because of consumer dissatisfaction. As we all become more educated about nutrition and healthy eating, we’re making our voices heard regarding the food products and ingredients we find unacceptable. FoodFacts.com is especially intrigued when we hear about fast food giants expressing their intention to improve the quality of their food.

As people express distaste for food they think is overly processed, McDonald’s, Taco Bell and other chains are trying to shed their reputation for serving reheated meals that are loaded with chemicals. That includes rethinking the use of artificial preservatives and other ingredients customers find objectionable.

“This demand for fresh and real is on the rise,” said Greg Creed, CEO of Yum Brands, which owns Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut.

Recasting fast-food as “fresh” and “real” will be tricky, in large part because it’s so universally regarded as cheap and greasy. Another problem is that terms like “fresh,” “real” and “healthy” have nebulous meanings, making it hard for companies to pin down how to approach transformation.

One way chains are looking to redefine themselves is by purging recipes of chemicals people might find unappetizing. Already, packaged food and beverage companies have reformulated products to remove such ingredients, even while standing by their safety. PepsiCo, for instance, said it would remove brominated vegetable oil from Gatorade after a petition by a teenager noted it isn’t approved for use in some markets overseas.

And fast-food chains are indicating they want to jump on the “clean label” trend too:

- Last month, McDonald’s USA President Mike Andres outlined improvements the company is working on, including the simplification of ingredient labels. Without providing details, he said to expect some changes in early 2015. The remarks came after the company reported a 4.6 percent decline in U.S. sales for November, capping two years of struggling performance.

-Subway, a privately held company that does not disclose sales, started airing TV ads Thursday for its new chicken strips free of artificial preservatives and flavors. After suffering bad publicity, the company said earlier last year it would remove an ingredient from its bread that an online petition noted was also used in yoga mats. The ingredient, azodicarbonamide, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration and widely used as a dough conditioner and whitening agent.

-Chick-fil-A said in 2013 it would remove high-fructose corn syrup from buns and artificial dyes from its dressings. A couple months later, it said it plans to serve only chicken raised without antibiotics within five years.

- Carl’s Jr. last month introduced an “all-natural” burger with no added hormones, antibiotics or steroids. “We are obviously looking at other products on our menu to see which ones can be made all natural as well,” said Brad Haley, the chain’s chief marketing officer.

It’s not clear how far fast-food companies will go in reformulating recipes. But the nation’s biggest chains are facing growing competition. In the latest quarter, customer visits to traditional fast-food hamburger chains declined 3 percent from a year ago, according to market researcher NPD Group. Fast-casual chains – which are seen as a step up from traditional fast-food – saw visits rise 8 percent.

The ethos of wholesome ingredients is increasingly being embraced across the industry. But not without some challenges.

Dan Coudreaut, executive chef at McDonald’s, has noted the difficulties in changing recipes. In an interview last year, he said McDonald’s is looking at ways to use culinary techniques to replace the functions of certain ingredients.

“If you take (an ingredient) out, what are you giving up?” he said.

Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said there are likely many cases where artificial preservatives or colors could be replaced with natural alternatives without significant costs. Since their functions vary, he said companies would have to evaluate recipes product by product.

“Sometimes, food additives can be crutches or insurance policies. If a food is frozen, germs aren’t going to grow. But preservatives might be added just in case, or they may be used just because their supplier has been using it for so long,” he said, adding that such changes are “not a big deal” in terms of the overall health.

Michele Simon, a public health lawyer and author of “Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines our Health and How to Fight Back,” also said getting rid of additives here and there won’t be enough to change the way people think about fast-food.

“That’s just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” Simon said. “These companies have a fundamental problem in who they are.”

Fast foods push towards better products is based on consumer objections which have ultimately affected the bottom line of the major chains. Think about it as fast food attempting to get back into the good graces of their consumer base. So whether or not the decisions being made currently are bottom line driven, we’re still hopeful that they will ultimately mean better — or at least less bad — meal options for those who continue to choose to consume fast food.

https://www.yahoo.com/health/fast-food-resolution-transform-junk-food-image-106933896052.html

Not all obese people are prone to metabolic issues

scaleThe effects of obesity are very well known. The biggest concerns surrounding the condition are diabetes, heart disease and stroke. For a long while, it’s been assumed that obesity and metabolic conditions go hand in hand. But new research is pointing to the idea that this may not necessarily be the case.

In a study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, researchers found that a subset of obese people do not have common metabolic abnormalities associated with obesity, such as insulin resistance, abnormal blood lipids (high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol), high blood pressure and excess liver fat.

In addition, obese people who didn’t have these metabolic problems when the study began did not develop them even after they gained more weight.

The study involved 20 obese participants who were asked to gain about 15 pounds over several months to determine how the extra pounds affected their metabolic functions.

“Our goal was to have research participants consume 1,000 extra calories every day until each gained 6 percent of his or her body weight,” said first author Elisa Fabbrini, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine. “This was not easy to do. It is just as difficult to get people to gain weight as it is to get them to lose weight.”

All of the subjects gained weight by eating at fast-food restaurants, under the supervision of a dietitian. The researchers chose fast-food chain restaurants that provide rigorously regulated portion sizes and nutritional information.
Before and after weight gain, the researchers carefully evaluated each study subject’s body composition, insulin sensitivity and ability to regulate blood sugar, liver fat and other measures of metabolic health.

After gaining weight, the metabolic profiles of obese subjects remained normal if they were in the normal range when the study began. But the metabolic profiles significantly worsened after weight gain in obese subjects whose metabolic profiles already were abnormal when the study got underway.

“This research demonstrates that some obese people are protected from the adverse metabolic effects of moderate weight gain, whereas others are predisposed to develop these problems,” said senior investigator Samuel Klein, MD, the Danforth Professor of Medicine and Nutritional Science and director of Washington University’s Center for Human Nutrition.

“This observation is important clinically because about 25 percent of obese people do not have metabolic complications,” he added. “Our data shows that these people remain metabolically normal even after they gain additional weight.”

As part of the study, the researchers then helped the subjects lose the weight they had gained.

“It’s important to point out that once the study was completed, we enrolled all subjects in our weight-loss program to make sure they lost all of the weight they had gained, or more,” said Klein, who also directs the Division of Geriatrics and Nutritional Science and the Atkins Center of Excellence in Obesity Medicine.

The researchers identified some key measurements that distinguished metabolically normal obese subjects from those with problems. One was the presence of fat inside the liver. Those with abnormal metabolism accumulated fat there.

Another difference involved gene function in fat tissue. People with normal metabolism in spite of their obesity expressed more genes that regulate fat production and accumulation. And the activity of those genes increased even more when the metabolically normal people gained weight. That wasn’t true for people with abnormal metabolism.

“These results suggest that the ability of body fat to expand and increase in a healthy way may protect some people from the metabolic problems associated with obesity and weight gain,” said Klein.

He noted that obesity contributes to more than 60 different unhealthy conditions.
“We need more studies to try to understand why obesity causes specific diseases in some people but not in others,” Klein said. “Could it be genetics, specific dietary intake, physical lifestyle, emotional health or even the microbes that live in the gut?”

As they look for answers, Klein and his colleagues plan to more closely analyze fat, muscle and liver tissue and to include lean people in future studies so that the researchers can learn more about how and why some individuals are protected from metabolic problems while others are vulnerable.

While FoodFacts.com knows that it is good news that about a quarter of the obese population seem to have genetic protection from metabolic difficulties, that does leave the bulk of those afflicted at risk for serious health problems. This research and the related studies that follow will result in benefits for those who are at risk … hopefully leading to real answers with meaningful solutions.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150102172716.htm

Want to eat healthier when you’re out? Cook more meals at home!

charm-of-food-cookedFoodFacts.com is always trying to encourage everyone to get into their kitchens and cook real meals with fresh, whole ingredients. It’s the surest way we can make sure we’re eating healthy, avoiding controversial ingredients and controlling our weight. But we learned something new today about our enthusiasm for preparing meals at home.

If you’re a home cook, there’s some good news about your health. A new study suggests that people who cook at home most of the time consume generally healthier meals with fewer calories. An especially surprising observation about home cooks: they tended to consume fewer calories even when eating in restaurants.

These data might have a strong implication for the typical American, who increasingly cooks at home less —for a variety of reasons.

Purchasing foods prepared away from home and restaurant meals have been previously reported to contain more calories and fewer nutrients, usually with higher amounts of sugars, fats, and salt. The study from the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School of Public Health of Johns Hopkins University supports the flip side of this: home cooked meals tend to have fewer calories and more nutrients.

Researchers examined the self-reported food records obtained from more than 9,000 adults, aged 20 and older. The study, published in the journal Public Health Nutrition Monday, used the data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which collects estimates of food intake data using detailed phone interviews of food consumption over both short term (past 24 hours) and long term (past 30 days) times.

Nearly half (48 percent) of the study participants reported cooking dinner at home six to seven nights per week, while roughly 8 percent of respondents said they cooked dinner once a week or less. When comparing the differences between the two “most” and “least” often cooking at home, two important associations were revealed: the most frequent home cooks consumed around 200 fewer calories daily, and around 16 grams of sugar (4 teaspoons).

Of particular note was the finding that people who reported cooking at home six to seven nights also had a strong association with a lower calorie intake when they ate out. This suggests that the home cooks have a mindfulness of healthy and nutrient dense meal preparation along with portion control, since these qualities seemed to be maintained when dining outside the home.

While it’s a challenge for most people to cook at home daily, the good news of the study is that even cooking at home 2-3 days per week was associated with improved diet quality.

We know … everyone is just too, too busy these days. Work, kids, getting to the gym, attending to responsibilities in and out of the house — at best we’re overscheduled. At worst, we seem to be on a constant treadmill that doesn’t really stop until we fall asleep at night. Cooking meals requires planning to take time out which is something we all need — even if it’s only two or three nights a week. It can give us a much required opportunity to breathe and even relax. Cooking can be fun and it doesn’t need to be complicated. It’s o.k. if our meals don’t equal what we can find on the Food Network. What’s important is that we use fresh, healthy ingredients cooked in a healthful manner. It may just help us make those other meals that we’re not cooking a bit better — and lighter — than they would have been otherwise!

http://www.today.com/health/home-cooks-eat-better-fewer-calories-when-they-eat-out-1D80293351

BPA back in the news — this time it’s linked to a quick rise in blood pressure

bpaBisphenol A is a chemical used in the manufacturing of plastic bottles, it’s also used to line cans of foods and beverages. The chemical can also be found in dental fillings, eyeglass lenses and electronic equipment. BPA is an endocrine disruptor. That means that it interferes with the production, secretion, transport, action, function and elimination of natural hormones. BPA can imitate our body’s own hormones in a way that could be hazardous for health. Babies and young children are said to be especially sensitive to the effects of BPA. Possible health effects include reproductive disorders, male impotence, heart disease, brain function, female egg quality, and breast cancer. The use of BPA has been banned in the manufacturing of baby bottles and sippy cups. While many manufacturers have willingly removed it from cans, BPA is still out there. And it’s still making news.

People who regularly drink from cans and plastic bottles may want to reconsider: A new study shows that a common chemical in the containers can seep into beverages and raise blood pressure within a few hours.

The research raises new concerns about the chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, which is widely found in plastic bottles, plastic packaging and the linings of food and beverage cans. Chronic exposure to BPA, as it is commonly known, has been associated with heart disease, cancer and other health problems. But the new study is among the first to show that a single exposure to the chemical can have a direct and fairly immediate impact on cardiovascular health.

The study found that when people drank soy milk from a can, the levels of BPA in their urine rose dramatically within two hours – and so did their blood pressure. But on days when they drank the same beverage from glass bottles, which don’t use BPA linings, there was no significant change in their BPA levels or blood pressure.

A single instance of increased blood pressure may not be particularly harmful. But the findings suggest that for people who drink from multiple cans or plastic bottles every day, the repeated exposure over time could contribute to hypertension, said Dr. Karin B. Michels, an expert on BPA who was not involved in the new research.

Dr. Michels said that the design of the new study was impressive and its findings “concerning.” About 30 percent of adults nationwide have hypertension, and BPA exposure is ubiquitous.

“I think this is a very interesting and important study that adds to the concern about bisphenol A,” said Dr. Michels, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “It raises a lot of questions. We have such a high rate of hypertension in this country, which has risen, and we haven’t really thought of bisphenol A and its use in cans as one of the causes of that. ”

BPA has been used since the 1960s to make countless everyday products like plastic bottles, food containers, contact lenses, and even sippy cups and baby bottles. The chemical can leach into food, and studies show that the vast majority of Americans who are tested have BPA in their urine.

Not everyone is convinced that BPA poses a risk to consumers. The American Chemistry Council, an industry trade group, has said BPA is safe and has opposed federal and state legislative proposals to ban it.

Much of the evidence against BPA comes from large population studies rather than controlled clinical trials. A number have linked high urinary levels of BPA to a greater risk of hypertension and heart and peripheral artery disease. But those studies simply show correlations, and do not provide evidence that BPA is the cause.

The latest study, published in Hypertension, a journal of the American Heart Association, was a randomized controlled trial. The authors, a team from Seoul National University’s department of preventive medicine in Korea, recruited 60 older subjects, most of whom were women, and assigned them to drink soy milk from cans or glass bottles on three separate occasions, weeks apart. A majority had no history of high blood pressure, though some did.
The researchers chose soy milk because it does not have any properties that are known to increase blood pressure. And unlike soda, fruit juice and other acidic beverages, which are more likely to leach BPA from containers, soy milk is considered fairly neutral.

When the subjects drank from glass bottles, the study found, their urinary BPA levels remained fairly low. But within two hours of drinking from a can, their levels of BPA were about 16 times higher.

As BPA levels rose, so too did systolic blood pressure readings – on average by about five millimeters of mercury. In general, every 20 millimeter increase in systolic blood pressure doubles the risk of cardiovascular disease.

BPA is known to block certain estrogen receptors that are thought to be responsible for repairing blood vessels and controlling blood pressure. The chemical may also affect blood pressure indirectly by disrupting thyroid hormone, the authors noted.

“Clinicians and patients – particularly hypertension or cardiovascular disease patients – should be aware of the potential clinical problems for blood pressure elevation when consuming canned food and beverages,” said Dr. Yun-Chul Hong, an author of the study and director of the Institute of Environmental Medicine at Seoul National University.

He recommended that people choose fresh foods and glass bottles over cans and plastic containers, and he urged manufacturers “to develop and use healthy alternatives to BPA for the inner lining of can containers.”

FoodFacts.com hopes that everyone takes any and all news regarding BPA seriously. It’s important to avoid the chemical whenever and wherever possible. While there is plenty of conflicting information out there, the possible health effects of Bisphenol A are real and quite concerning. We’ve all had exposure in some form or another, but we are all capable of reducing or even eliminating that exposure. And that’s something we need to focus on for ourselves and our loved ones.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/12/08/bpa-in-cans-and-plastic-bottles-linked-to-quick-rise-in-blood-pressure/?_r=1

A sweet surprise: Americans are buying fewer pre-packaged baked goods

Cakes and piesJunk food. It’s one of FoodFacts.com’s pet peeves. There are plenty of junk foods we really dislike. High on that list have always been pre-packaged baked goods. You know the ones we’re talking about — cookies, fruit pies, cupcakes, snack cakes, pastries. There seem to be millions of them — from famous brand names, to the completely unknown that have found their way to grocery store shelves. Generally speaking any of the pre-packaged baked goods you can pick up in your grocery store will have far too much sugar and a very unhealthy dose of controversial ingredients, not too mention unhealthy fats. While commercial bakers may not have gotten the message that consumers are looking for healthier options from food manufacturers, Americans seem to be acting on their desires.

Apparently, Americans are buying fewer pre-packaged baked goods, including cakes, cookies, pies and donuts.

The researchers, led by Kevin C. Mathias from the University of North Carolina, note that ready-to-eat grain-based desserts (RTE GBDs) are a major contributor of energy, sugar and saturated fat to our diets, which likewise contributes to obesity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there has been a major increase in obesity in the US during the past 20 years, contributing to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer – some of the leading causes of preventable death.

Because pre-packaged baked goods are packed with obesity-causing empty calories, the researchers say they are a strategic target for lowering consumption of sugars and saturated fats in the American diet.

As such, the researchers wanted to examine the changes in the nutritional content of RTE GBDs, as well as shifts in consumer purchasing behaviors.

To do so, the team analyzed nutrition facts panel information from commercial databases in terms of RTE GBD products purchased by over 130,000 households, according to the Nielsen Homescan longitudinal dataset 2005-2012.

After assessing the information, the researchers found that, though there has been little nutritional change in the content of pre-packaged baked goods that we bought during that time, overall consumer purchases of such products decreased by 24%.

“The results from this analysis show that the new RTE GBD products released in 2012 did not have lower energy, sugar or saturated fat densities than the products already existing on the market,” says Mathias.

He notes that reformulating existing pre-packaged baked goods comes with many challenges, including duplicating taste, appearance and texture.

The researchers suggest that creating new labeling systems featured on the front of packaging could steer consumers toward buying products with lower energy, sugar and saturated fat – which could help improve dietary intake.

Still, this potentially positive shift could also backfire, according to the team: “A potential concern of shifting purchases of RTE GBDs toward products with lower energy, sugar or saturated fat content is that consumers could potentially purchase more RTE GBD products if they are perceived to be healthier.”

Mathias says one way of getting around this conundrum is through “stealth reformulations by which changes in the product composition are conducted unbeknownst to consumers.”
But this brings another issue into play, as the American public is not typically fond of changes – whether chemically or nutritionally – made to the products they buy without their knowledge.

Still, the researchers say understanding the types of products purchased in the US is important in expanding knowledge on the effectiveness of efforts aiming to help consumers choose healthier dietary options. Mathias adds:

“The results from the product and purchase level analyses highlight an opportunity for both food manufacturers and public health officials to work together to develop strategies to shift consumer purchases toward products with lower energy, sugar and saturated fat densities in addition to decreasing overall purchases of RTE GBDs.”

We are hopeful that as consumers become more conscious the nutritional value of packaged foods (baked goods included) trends like this will continue. We have seen clearly over the last few years how the actions of consumers have moved manufacturers to change the way certain foods and beverages are produced. Consumers are speaking to pre-packaged baked goods manufacturers. Let’s hope they get the message.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/287359.php

Is fast food dumbing down our kids?

fast foodWe already know quite a bit about the problems with fast food consumption. The list is a long one — high in calories and fat, excessive sodium content, long lists of controversial ingredients. Fast food is junk food. It contributes tremendously to the obesity crisis. Consuming fast food has been linked to depression. It’s been associated with obesity-related cancers. Now, though, we can add a new problem to the list.

A recent study which examined fast food consumption among children revealed that increased consumption leads to poor academic performance. Moreover, it found that many children are relying on fast food to supply them with their daily nutritional needs. In the study published in Clinical Pediatrics, researchers found that one fifth of the children in the study ate fast food at least four times during the week in question.

The study was made possible by data collected during the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K). The study was nationally representative, including children from diverse socioeconomical and racial backgrounds who attended both private and public schools. Data was collected from students who were in kindergarten in the 1998-1999 school year by the National Center for educational statistics. In the longitudinal study, data was collected on the students through the eighth grade.

In the present study, the academic growth for 8,544 students was assessed in reading, math, and science from the fifth to the eighth grade. The diets of children involved in the study were analyzed in the fifth grade via questionnaire.

Only 29 percent of the students did not eat fast food during the week before they completed the questionnaire. On the other hand 10 percent of the children reported eating fast food daily, with another 10 percent eating it four to six times per week. Overall, over two thirds of the children ate some fast food.

The team found that children who ate fast food four to six times a week showed less improvement in all three academic areas tested. Among children who ate fast food four to six times per week test scores were up to 20 percent lower compared to children who did not eat fast food. Interestingly, children who ate fast food one to three times per week only showed slower growth in math.

In the analysis, researchers also accounted for other factors such as such as family background, what other foods the children ate, how much they exercised and even time spent watching television.

“We went as far as we could to control for and take into account all the known factors that could be involved in how well children did on these tests,” said lead investigator Katy Purtell, assistant professor at Ohio State University.

The study didn’t address why fast food would lead to lower academic achievement, though fast foods often contain less nutrients, many of which are crucial to cognitive development. The authors explain that the results suggest that fast food consumption should be limited.

“There’s a lot of evidence that fast-food consumption is linked to childhood obesity, but the problems don’t end there,” said Purtell. “Relying too much on fast food could hurt how well children do in the classroom.”

FoodFacts.com has devoted considerable blog space to the idea of providing our kids with the healthiest possible food choices as they grow. In addition to helping our children avoid obesity and weight gain, it’s important to help them establish preferences for fresh, healthy foods that can provide a foundation for a life-long healthy diet that will reduce their risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer as adults.

The idea that fast food may be hurting the academic performance of our children certainly adds new motivation for paying strict attention to their eating habits. Our world grows increasingly complex and competitive with every passing year. Part of preparing our children for adulthood is making sure that they will be able to successfully take their place in the adult world. And their grades play an important role in that idea.

Let’s make sure all our children start walking into adulthood on the right foot by eliminating — or at least limiting fast foods. Let’s set them up as a generation of happier, healthier and smarter adults!

http://www.modvive.com/2014/12/28/fast-food-consumption-tied-poor-academic-performance/