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

Scientists block obesity-related protein in mice and stop fat formation

150506133621_1_540x360We’ve known for a while that where a person develops fat in their body is very significant in the determination of obesity-related health issues. Belly fat is bad fat and puts people at a higher risk for diseases like type 2 diabetes as well as other metabolic issues. A new study out of Oxford University looked at how blocking one protein in mice might change the course of obesity-related conditions.

By changing mouse genes to block a protein associated with obesity, Oxford University scientists have prevented fat from forming around the animals’ internal organs, even when the animals eat an unhealthy diet. The study in Nature Medicine found that these genetically engineered mice also retained their sensitivity to insulin (normally blunted by obesity), despite gaining weight.

Visceral fat deposits around internal organs in the stomach are particularly harmful: they are associated with insulin resistance, type-2 diabetes and heart disease. The study, conducted in close collaboration with researchers at the at the French Institute of Health and Medical research (INSERM) in Paris, shows that changing the pattern of fat deposition from around the stomach to under the skin starts a chain of events which result in insulin sensitivity being maintained, reducing the chances of type-2 diabetes.

Researchers already know that visceral fat attracts special M1-type macrophages (immune cells that attack infections and damaged cells). These M1-type macrophages produce harmful proteins that promote insulin resistance. ‘We’ve previously found that a protein called interferon regulatory factor-5 (IRF-5) seems to push macrophages to change from a more ‘peaceful’, M2-type to the more aggressive M1-type’, said Professor Irina Udalova at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology at Oxford University, ‘so we wondered if ‘deleting’ IRF-5 might have a beneficial effect’.

To test this idea, the two research teams fed the mice that were lacking the gene coding for IRF-5 with a healthy diet or a high-fat one. The mice with genetic changes were no different from standard lab mice when both the groups ate the healthy diet. Both groups of mice gained weight when they ate the high-fat diet. However, the mice with the altered gene piled on the fat under the skin, rather than around the internal organs in their stomach. The size of the fat cells in the stomach was also smaller in these mice, because there was more collagen (a ‘scaffolding’ protein that provides the structure for many parts of the body) deposits, holding the fat cells in.

‘The mice without IRF-5 still got fat, but what was different was where they deposited this fat. We know that people who put on fat around their belly have a higher risk of developing obesity-related illnesses such as type-2 diabetes, compared to people who put on weight around their thighs. But we can’t change the pattern of fat deposition in people, which we can now do in these mice. So this turned out to be an excellent way of testing if changing the pattern of fat deposition actually changes the factors that lead to type-2 diabetes’, said Professor Udalova.

The researchers tested this idea by giving the mice a very sweet drink, containing glucose. They then tracked how quickly the glucose was broken down by insulin. Obesity can make the body less sensitive to insulin, which means that it takes longer for the glucose to disappear from the blood stream. This loss of sensitivity can eventually lead to type-2 diabetes. Despite being fatter, the mice without IRF-5 did better than the standard mice on this glucose challenge test.

Researchers at INSERM also found that IRF-5 levels were elevated in fatty tissue from very obese people, especially in their visceral fat. A gene analysis of this group of people found that the higher the levels of IRF-5, the lower the levels of another protein produced by macrophages, transforming growth factor beta (TGFbeta). By mimicking the environment in fatty tissue in a test-tube, the researchers also found that artificially increasing the levels of IRF-5 in cells from thin people reduced the levels of TGFbeta, similar to what was found in the obese people. The researchers think that reducing IRF-5 levels sets off a chain of events, starting with increased TGFbeta levels. Increased TGFbeta in turn leads to more collagen being deposited, which results in ‘remodelling’ of abdominal fat deposits, and the release of other chemicals that maintain insulin sensitivity.

‘We found that the mice without IRF-5 were essentially healthy, despite being significantly fatter. Blocking IRF-5′s activity may however have other side-effects, such as increasing allergies. So more work is needed to understand if changing levels of IRF-5 (by using new drugs to target the protein) in humans would be a good way of treating the problem of obesity and obesity associated metabolic diseases. But the results show very clearly that where you get fat matters a lot’, said Professor Udalova.

We can’t genetically engineer human beings — at least not just yet, thankfully. But this information certainly raises the idea that science may come up with a way to block the protein in humans, thus redirecting the course of obesity related disease. FoodFacts.com is certainly encouraged by the findings. We still do believe that a healthy, balanced diet beginning in childhood would do everyone a world of good. The before-the-fact solution is easier, less expensive and ultimately healthier than treating obesity after it has already occurred.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150506133621.htm

Real progress: Panera Bread commits to removing over 150 controversial ingredients by 2016

635660908535487026-XXX-CEO-Profile-Panera-Ron-Shaich-2Panera Bread just made everyone at FoodFacts.com happier than we’ve ever been about fast casual dining. They’ve committed to the removal of over 150 controversial ingredients from their menu items by 2016.

We’ve been saying the same thing over and over, every time a fast food or fast casual chain commits to using antibiotic-free chicken, or the removal of a single ingredient due to consumer demand. It’s nice, but just one thing isn’t going to change the perception of an increasingly health-conscious consumer. It has to be bigger than that.

Panera Bread got the real message and they’re doing something about it.

Last week the chain began using only “clean” salad dressings — dressings free from artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors and preservatives. That’s already great news, but it’s much bigger than that. The list of ingredients slated for removal could come directly from the FoodFacts.com controversial ingredient list. You can find the full list here: https://www.panerabread.com/panerabread/documents/panera-no-no-list-05-2015.pdf.

Among the real standouts for us are the removal of aspartame, artificial colors, artificial flavors, caramel color, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils and propylene glycol from their foods. The list goes on though and you should really check it out.

This is a stunning move by Panera Bread and one that challenges every other fast casual and fast food chain. If Panera Bread can find a way to remove just about every ingredient we want to avoid from their menu (we don’t see natural flavor and carrageenan on their list), it’s really impossible to imagine that other chains can’t accomplish the same thing while still offering food that’s appealing and affordable to their consumers.

With this statement, Panera Bread proves that no chain has an excuse. It’s time for the rest of the fast casual and fast food giants to follow their lead.

https://www.panerabread.com/panerabread/documents/panera-no-no-list-05-2015.pdf
http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2015/05/04/panera-panera-bread-fast-food-restaurants-dining-artificial-additives/26696823/

Taco Bell’s new Chipotle Chickstar almost makes a Big Mac look good

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 1.11.15 PMAnother new one from Taco Bell proves that fast food chicken sandwiches can, in fact, be a poorer nutritional choice than a fast food burger. This time we have Chipotle Chickstars.

It’s basically a chicken sandwich wrapped in a tortilla that’s grilled. The website describes it this way, “A warm, soft, flour tortilla filled with new premium all-white-meat crispy chicken that’s marinated in bold Mexican spices, rolled in a crunchy corn tortilla coating, and crisped to perfection combined with creamy chipotle sauce, real cheddar cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes and then wrapped up and grilled for maximum portability.” Sounds innocent enough, doesn’t it?

Let’s see what we can find out about this “unique” new chicken sandwich …

Nutrition Facts:
Calories:                 760
Fat:                          43 grams
Saturated Fat:       8 grams
Sodium:                 1650 mg

WOW. There is no one eating this chicken sandwich who should be thinking that it’s better than other alternatives being served. You could actually consume less calories from a Big Mac at McDonald’s than from the Chipotle Chickstar — not to mention fat and sodium.

What about the ingredients?

CRISPY CHICKEN Chicken White Meat, Water, Seasoning [Maltodextrin, Salt, Sodium Phosphate, Tomato Powder, Sugar, Vinegar Solids, Yeast Extract, Onion Powder, Citric Acid, Chicken Broth, Sunflower Oil, Garlic Powder, Jalapeno Juice Solids, Chicken Powder, Gum Arabic, Chicken Fat, Acetic Acid, Modified Corn Starch, Smoke Flavor, and Grill Flavor (from Sunflower Oil)], Salt, Rice Starch, and Sodium Phosphate. BREADED WITH: Wheat Flour, Tortilla Pieces (Corn, Vegetable Oil {Corn, Soybean, and/or Sunflower Oil], Dextrose, Salt, Dried Yeast, Roasted Barley Flour, Annatto Extract (color). BATTERED WITH: Water, Bleached Wheat Flour, Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Salt, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Spices, Disodium, Inosinate and Disodium Guanylate, Dried Onion, and Dried Garlic. PREDUSTED WITH: Bleached Wheat Flour, Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Salt, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Spices, Disodium, Inosinate and Disodium Guanylate, Dried Onion, and Dried Garlic. CONTAINS: Wheat CHIPOTLE SAUCE Soybean Oil, Water, Egg Yolk, Distilled Vinegar, Sour Cream (Cream, Modified Corn Starch, Gelatin, Lactic Acid, Guar Gum, Mono & Di Glycerides, Disodium Phosphate, Citric Acid, Artificial Flavor), Chili Peppers, Salt, Sugar, Chipotle Peppers, Garlic Including Dehyrated, Natural Flavors Including Smoke Flavor, Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate Added As Preservatives, Xanthan Gum, Onion*, Mustard Seed, Propylene Glycol Alginate, Maltodextrin, Corn Starch, Jalapeno Peppers*, Calcium Disodium EDTA To Protect Flavor, Canola and Sesame Oil. *Dehydrated CONTAINS EGG, MILK CHEDDAR CHEESE Cultured Pasteurized Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto (Color), Anti-Caking Agent. CONTAINS MILK LETTUCE Iceberg Lettuce TOMATO Tomatoes TORTILLA Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Vegetable Shortening (Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil), Contains less than 2% of the following: Sugar, Salt, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate), Fumaric Acid, Calcium Propionate and Sorbic Acid (used as preservatives), Yeast, Molasses, Dough Conditioner [Distilled Monoglycerides, Enzymes, Wheat Starch and Calcium Carbonate with Tocopherols, Ascorbic Acid, and Citric Acid (added as Antioxidants)] CONTAINS: WHEAT

FoodFacts.com feels badly for the poor innocent chicken used in this sandwich. Inherently, consumers hear chicken sandwich and automatically relate the sandwich to healthier options. Lean protein, less calories. We understand the dilemma and hope that posts like this can help make it abundantly clear that not all chicken is equal after processing and the addition of a strange and very controversial list of ingredients.

The Big Mac is NOT a healthy choice for anyone — but it’s still better than the Chipotle Chickstar from Taco Bell. And that is saying a mouthful.

http://www.tacobell.com/food/specialties/Chipotle-Chickstar

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

Americans and Africans swap diets for just two weeks — read about the dramatic results

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 1.10.37 PMThe United States may be one of the most developed nations in the world. We may be among the top nations for many, varied things of significance. But it does appear that when it comes to our diets, there are other nations that come out on top.

Western diets, high in protein and fat but low in fibre, are thought to raise colon cancer risk compared with African diets high in fiber and low in fat and protein.

The new study, published in Nature Communications today, confirms that a high fiber diet can substantially reduce risk, and shows that bacteria living in the gut play an important role in this effect.

Colon cancer is the fourth most common cause of death from cancer worldwide, accounting for over 600,000 deaths per year. Colon cancer rates are much higher in the western world than in Africa or the Far East, yet in the United States, African Americans shoulder the greatest burden of the disease.

To investigate the possible roles of diet and gut bacteria, an international team including scientists from the University of Pittsburgh and Imperial College London carried out a study with a group of 20 African American volunteers and another group of 20 participants from rural South Africa. The two groups swapped diets under tightly controlled conditions for two weeks.

The volunteers had colonoscopy examinations before and after the diet swap. The researchers also measured biological markers that indicate colon cancer risk and studied samples of bacteria taken from the colon.

At the start, when the groups had been eating their normal diets, almost half of the American subjects had polyps — abnormal growths in the bowel lining that may be harmless but can progress to cancer. None of the Africans had these abnormalities.

After two weeks on the African diet, the American group had significantly less inflammation in the colon and reduced biomarkers of cancer risk. In the African group, measurements indicating cancer risk dramatically increased after two weeks on the western diet.

Professor Jeremy Nicholson, the team leader from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London, said: “We can’t definitively tell from these measurements that the change in their diet would have led to more cancer in the African group or less in the American group, but there is good evidence from other studies that the changes we observed are signs of cancer risk.

“The findings suggest that people can substantially lower their risk of colon cancer by eating more fibre. This is not new in itself but what is really surprising is how quickly and dramatically the risk markers can switch in both groups following diet change. These findings also raise serious concerns that the progressive westernization of African communities may lead to the emergence of colon cancer as a major health issue.”

Professor Stephen O’Keefe at the University of Pittsburgh, who directed the study, said: “Studies on Japanese migrants to Hawaii have shown that it takes one generation of westernization to change their low incidence of colon cancer to the high rates observed in native Hawaiians. Our study suggests that westernization of the diet induces changes in biomarkers of colon cancer risk in the colonic mucosa within two weeks. Perhaps even more importantly, a change in diet from a westernized composition to a ‘traditional African’ high fiber low fat diet reduced these biomarkers of cancer risk within two weeks, indicating that it is likely never too late to change your diet to change your risk of colon cancer.”

The study found that a major reason for the changes in cancer risk was the way in which the bacteria in the gut — known as the microbiome — altered their metabolism to adapt to the new diet. In the American group, the researchers found that the African diet led to an increase in the production of butyrate, a byproduct of fibre metabolism that has important anti-cancer effects.

Dr James Kinross, a colorectal surgeon and a member of the research group at Imperial, said: “The gut microbiome is being increasingly recognized as an important contributor to human health. This research shows that gut bacteria are critically important for mediating the link between diet and colon cancer risk. This means we can look to develop therapies targeting gut bacteria as a way to prevent and treat cancer.”

Just two weeks of eating like an American. That’s it. FoodFacts.com has to wonder what this would look like after a year or two. The U.S. has always been a nation of progress. Unfortunately all of that progress has led to grocery store shelves lined with processed foods and people who are too busy to cook. Food doesn’t come in a box or a can. Food isn’t handed to you over a counter in a container. Balanced diets include fiber and lean proteins. Healthy diets are balanced. Obviously, we have a long way to go here in the U.S.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150428125038.htm

Diet Pepsi now free of aspartame, but don’t get too excited yet …

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 1.11.43 PMIt’s always excited to see food and beverage manufacturers responding positively to consumer sentiment. As we become more educated and aware and make our voices heard through decreased sales, we see manufacturers changing their ingredients in an attempt to get back into our good graces. That’s all positive and rightfully deserves our attention. Pepsi is the latest manufacturer to listen to consumers. FoodFacts.com, however, needs ask a few significant questions. Just how much have they listened? Was it enough?

Spurred by falling sales and consumer safety concerns, PepsiCo North America Beverages announced on Friday that an aspartame-free Diet Pepsi — sweetened with sucralose and ace-K — will hit shelves some time in August. Pepsi executives say the new Diet Pepsi sweetener formulation tastes the same as the old one.

Large lettering on the new Diet Pepsi cans and packaging will shout: “Now Aspartame Free.”
For many consumers — who fear aspartame’s side effects — and for PepsiCo, which has seen Diet Pepsi sales tumble over the past several years, the change can’t come soon enough. Last year, Diet Pepsi volume was down -5.2% and Diet Coke volume was down -6.6% in the U.S., reports Beverage Digest, the industry trade publication.

PepsiCo has spent years trying to develop a new Diet Pepsi sweetener that would placate consumer concerns but still appeal to consumer tastes. The move would seem to put pressure on arch-rival Coke, which also has seen Diet Coke sales slump, to make a similar move.

“To Diet Pepsi consumers, removing aspartame is their No. 1 one concern,” says Seth Kaufman, senior vice president of Pepsi and flavors. “We’re listening to consumers. It’s what they want.”
Pepsi could no longer afford to sit back and simply watch its Diet Pepsi sales keep falling.
“This is an aggressive move by Pepsi. It has the potential of helping Pepsi recruit new and lapsed users for Diet Pepsi,” said John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest. But the move also has some risk, he says. It could confuse some loyal Diet Pepsi users, though it is the sweetener blend that’s changing, not the flavor formula.”

The change applies to all versions of Diet Pepsi, such as Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi and Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi sold in the U.S. Diet Pepsi was introduced in 1964, with saccharin as its sweetener. It was reformulated with aspartame in 1983, and then switched to a blend of aspartame and ace-K in 2013.

While critics of aspartame say they are pleased with the move, one critic says that the new sweetener still has a problem: ace-K.

“Diet Pepsi will still contain acesulfame-potassium (ace-K). Consumers should avoid that sweetener as well,” warns Michael Jacobson, director of Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group. “It is poorly tested, but the tests done by the manufacturer in the 1970s suggest that ace-K, too, might pose a cancer risk.”

Pepsi officials strongly deny that. “Decades of studies have shown that the sweeteners we use are safe,” says spokeswoman Elisa Baker.

For that matter, Kaufman insists it is changing consumer preferences — not a safety issue — that led PepsiCo to make the change: “Decades of studies have shown that aspartame is safe. This is not about safety.”

But Jacobson says scientific studies have shown a link between aspartame and cancer. “Three top-quality studies have found that aspartame causes cancer in animals, so the less that people consume the better,” he says.

One medical expert, however, disagrees. “Aspartame’s safety in the quantities the general public consumes has been established as safe many, many times over,” says Rebecca Blake, director of clinical nutrition at New York’s Mount Sinai Beth Israel. “The research does not yet support a greater level of safety among the ‘more natural’ sweeteners.”

For the moment, PepsiCo says it has no plans to replace aspartame in other diet beverages, including Diet Mountain Dew, which also has seen a sales decline.

Jacobson, the consumer advocate, says the best thing is probably to avoid most colas altogether. “My best advice is to refresh yourself with water, seltzer water, or flavored waters.”

While it’s encouraging to see Pepsi respond to consumer sentiment, the company seems to have missed the idea that ace-K is another concern for consumers. In an attempt to make Diet Pepsi “less bad,” they appear to want to pacify customers by the removal of one controversial artificial sweetener while ignoring the other.

Of course, soda is still soda — changing up the sweeteners won’t do much for the remainder of the chemicals in the concoction. While we appreciate the effort of any manufacturer trying to improve their products in response to the voices of their consumers, Diet Pepsi is soda and soda isn’t good for anyone. And ace-K is still a problem. Nice try, though.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2015/04/24/pepsi-diet-pepsi-pepsico-aspartame-aspartame-free-beverages-soft-drinks/26297755/

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