Are full-service restaurants healthier choices than fast food chains? Not really.

Spanish_Eating_Out_070615Here at FoodFacts.com we spend a lot of time talking about how unhealthy fast food restaurants are. We talk about calorie and fat levels. We’re continually shocked by the amount of sodium packed into one hamburger. And we always want to stay far away from ingredient lists that could possibly double as science experiments.

Many people assume that any food that isn’t fast food has to be better for you. We’ll admit that it’s a logical assumption. A full-service restaurant has an actual chef. The food doesn’t arrive already prepared and frozen. It’s prepared in a real kitchen, and it’s fresh. That has to make a difference, right? Read on.

When Americans go out to eat, either at a fast-food outlet or a full-service restaurant, they consume, on average, about 200 more calories a day than when they stay home for meals, a new study reports. They also take in more fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium than those who prepare and eat their meals at home.

These are the findings of University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Ruopeng An, who analyzed eight years of nationally representative data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which is conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. An looked at 2003-10 data collected from 18,098 adults living in the U.S.

His analysis, reported in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, revealed that eating at a restaurant is comparable to — or in some cases less healthy than — eating at a fast-food outlet. While people who eat at restaurants tend to take in more healthy nutrients — including certain vitamins, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids — than those who eat at home or at a fast-food outlet, the restaurant diners also consume substantially more sodium and cholesterol — two nutrients that Americans generally eat in excess, even at home.

“People who ate at full-service restaurants consumed significantly more cholesterol per day than people who ate at home,” An said. “This extra intake of cholesterol, about 58 milligrams per day, accounts for 20 percent of the recommended upper bound of total cholesterol intake of 300 milligrams per day.”

Those who ate at fast-food outlets also took in extra cholesterol, but only about 10 milligrams more than those who ate at home.
Fast-food and restaurant diners consumed about 10 grams more total fat, and 3.49 grams and 2.46 grams, respectively, more saturated fat than those who dined at home.

“The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of saturated fats one eats to less than 5 to 6 percent of one’s total daily calories,” An said. “That means that if one needs about 2,000 calories a day, less than 120 calories, or 13 grams, should come from saturated fats.”

Eating at a fast-food outlet adds about 300 milligrams of sodium to one’s daily intake, and restaurant dining boosts sodium intake by 412 milligrams per day, on average, An said. Recommendations for sodium intake vary between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams per day, but Americans already consume more than 3,100 milligrams of sodium at home, he found.

“The additional sodium is even more worrisome because the average daily sodium intake among Americans is already so far above the recommended upper limit, posing a significant public health concern, such as hypertension and heart disease,” he said.

“These findings reveal that eating at a full-service restaurant is not necessarily healthier than eating at a fast-food outlet,” An said. “In fact, you may be at higher risk of overeating in a full-service restaurant than when eating fast-food. My advice to those hoping to consume a healthy diet and not overeat is that it is healthier to prepare your own foods, and to avoid eating outside the home whenever possible.”

The conclusion emphasizes what FoodFacts.com has been saying for years. Fresh, whole foods prepared in your own home kitchen are the healthiest option for all of us. As we become busier and busier in a world that becomes increasingly more sophisticated and complicated, it is so important for us all to carve out time every day focusing on ourselves. We’ve already got the hang of that in some areas. Folks who go to the gym, for instance, do that pretty successfully. But we’ve got to commit to time to prepare meals, as well. We’ll all be better off for the effort.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150701123350.htm

The Extra Long Pulled Pork Sandwich … the latest “less bad” option from Burger King

urlIn a sea of really bad food choices, any fast food menu option that boasts mostly reasonable nutrition facts and a mostly reasonable ingredient list quickly become a stand out. We were surprised to find that Burger King’s latest, the Extra Long Pulled Pork Sandwich is that kind of menu item. While FoodFacts.com isn’t going to tell our community that this sandwich is finally the healthy option you’ve been waiting for from Burger King, we can tell you that it’s “less bad” and, in a pinch, that can be important. Let’s take a look.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories:                       370
Fat:                                8 grams
Saturated Fat:             2.5 grams
Sodium:                       1290 grams

The only thing that goes overboard here is the sodium – and it’s not small. This is one salty sandwich and it certainly doesn’t leave much room to season the rest of your food for the day. But calorie and fat content are very reasonable.

Ingredients:
PORK PULLED WITH SAUCE, FULLY COOKED, SMOKED: Pork, Barbeque Sauce (Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Tomato Paste, Distilled Vinegar, Sugar, Salt, Modified Food Starch, Mustard (Water, Vinegar, Mustard Bran, Salt), Natural Smoke Flavor, Tamarind Extract, Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbate (Preservatives), Caramel Color, Spices, Ground Paprika, Malic Acid, Tomato Powder, Citric Acid, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder). SPECIALTY BUNS: Enriched wheat flour [flour, malted barley flour, reduced iron, niacin, thiamin mononitrate (Vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), folic acid], water, high fructose corn syrup, sesame seeds, yeast, soybean oil, salt, wheat gluten, calcium sulfate, calcium propionate (preservative), flaxseeds, mono- and diglycerides, datem, citric acid, potassium iodate, soy lecithin. CONTAINS: WHEAT AND SOY, Onions, Pickles

This certainly isn’t the best ingredient list we’ve ever seen. To be honest though, there are plenty of fast food options that are much, much worse. While we’re not a fan, we do need to acknowledge that most burgers contain plenty more than four controversial ingredients.

So, what’s the verdict? We don’t think this should be on anyone’s “must-eat” list. If there are special circumstances however — say you’re on the road and the only restaurant options for the next 200 miles happen to be fast food, Burger King’s new Extra Long Pulled Pork Sandwich is “less bad” than a Whopper. That’s something, at least.

http://www.bk.com/menu-item/extra-long-pulled-pork-sandwich

Papa John’s gets onboard, committing to the removal of artificial ingredients by the end of 2016

Papa-JohnsIn an effort to respond to consumer demand and position Papa John’s as a leader in the fast-casual restaurant business, the chain has followed others and committed to the removal of artificial ingredients by the end of next year. FoodFacts.com is happy to see yet another power-house brand listening to consumer voices and acting in the best interest of the folks that keep their business thriving.

Papa John’s International Inc. has long used the slogan “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.”

With a growing number of restaurant chains making public commitments to the quality of their food, the nation’s third largest pizza chain has released a list of 14 ingredients it has committed to remove from its menu items by the end of 2016. It also launched a marketing campaign that compares its ingredient list to Panera Bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Papa John’s launched a website this week that lists itself, Panera and Chipotle as “leading clean ingredient brands.” It tallies the ingredients that it doesn’t have on its menu compared with the two fast-casual chains, which lead the industry in terms of reputation for sourcing ingredients responsibly.

Papa John’s also ran an ad in USA Today Thursday that made the same comparison. The ad is in the form of “A letter to the moms and dads of America,” from Papa John’s founder, chairman, president and CEO John Schnatter.

“I have a question for you: What’s your child’s favorite food?” it begins.

“I bet a lot of you would answer ‘pizza,’ right?

“We all love having those Friday night family pizza dinners. But you’re also concerned that your children are eating balanced meals and foods full of good, quality ingredients.

“Well, I’m a parent too (and recently a grandparent). Let me be clear about this. I’m not going to serve people in our restaurants things I would not serve my family at home.”

The ingredients to be removed include artificial flavors and colors, corn syrup and corn syrup solids, hydrolyzed soy protein and corn protein, and sodium benzoate.

Papa John’s has already removed trans fats, monosodium glutamate, and the preservatives BHA and BHT from its menu.

Panera Bread Co. launched a similar campaign last week highlighting “food as it should be,” which included newspaper advertisements in the form of a letter from founder, chairman and CEO Ron Shaich, who urged customers to “Demand transparency and cleaner menus.”

Chipotle has long used the tagline “Food With Integrity” to describe its sourcing philosophy, which includes purchasing meat from animals that are not treated with antibiotics. Earlier this year, it also said it would remove ingredients made from genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, from its food.

Other large restaurant chains have also recently made claims or commitments regarding their food sourcing.

Last year, Chick-fil-A Inc. committed to removing chicken treated with antibiotics within the next five years, and in March, McDonald’s committed to removing chicken treated with antibiotics that are also used to treat humans within the next two years. McDonald’s, the country’s largest restaurant chain, also said it would work to curb antibiotic use in other foods, including beef and pork, and to offer in its kids’ Happy Meals low-fat milk and fat-free chocolate milk from cows that had not been treated with the growth hormone rBST.

Consumer sentiment … it just might be cleaning up the fast food and fast casual industry one chain at a time.

http://nrn.com/health-nutrition/papa-john-s-remove-artificial-ingredients-menu

Moms who love their families serve vegetables. Who knew???

child_eating_vegetablesFoodFacts.com has always known that when it comes to parenting, our kids remember the little things. They like it when we remember to take the crusts off their peanut butter sandwiches, or add just the right amount of milk to their oatmeal. They remember how we taught them to tie their shoes with bunny ears and how we cut shapes out of their sandwiches to make their lunches more fun. So it didn’t surprise us to read this information about serving vegetables at dinner.

Do you want to be seen as a better cook and a more loving parent? It’s as easy as serving a vegetable at dinner, according to recent Cornell Food and Brand Lab research.

In the first study, 500 American mothers were presented with one of five common meat-based hypothetical meals that either contained a side vegetable or no vegetable. The five meals included entrees such as steak, chicken, and lasagna and sides such as potatoes, broccoli and breadsticks. Those who were presented with a meal including a vegetable side, such as broccoli, indicated that the main dish would taste better and that the server was a better cook. “Simply having a vegetable on the plate made the whole meal be perceived as tastier,” said lead author Brian Wansink, PhD director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and author of Slim by Design, “Even if they didn’t particularly like the vegetable.”

In the second study, these same 500 people read a day-in-the-life story of a woman named Valerie as she woke up, went to work, ran errands, made dinner for her family, and watched TV with her husband before going to bed. In one version of the story she prepared frozen green beans with dinner and in the other version she didn’t. After finishing the story, people were asked to describe Valerie as a person. When Valerie’s day included serving green beans she was more likely to be described as “thoughtful,” “attentive” and “capable.” When she was not described as serving a vegetable, she was more often described as “neglectful,” “selfish” and “boring.”

Families are most likely to consume vegetables at dinner time, yet only about 23% of dinners contain a full serving of vegetables. “If families want to eat more vegetables, dinner’s the place to start. If you serve vegetables at dinner, not only will your family think you’re a better cook, they’ll also think you’re a more loving parent,” said Dr. Wansink, “Within two days of discovering this, I changed the way I cook. I no longer say I’m too tired to make a vegetable. If nothing else, at least I open up a can of green beans.”

These findings compliment a recent publication in Public Health Nutrition, and it will be presented at the Society of Nutrition Education and Behavior’s Annual Conference 2015 in Pittsburgh.

So just remember, all that complaining you hear back from your kids about not wanting to eat their vegetables … all that almost visceral hatred directed towards an innocent pile of green beans or broccoli or Brussel sprouts … it doesn’t matter. They secretly think it means you love them more.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easier to get them to eat what’s good for them. It just means that somewhere inside, they really do get it and it’s worth it.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150626083917.htm

Can obesity be genetic? New inherited form of obesity identified

150630080159_1_900x600Obesity is classified as a disease. For a myriad of reasons, that classification is important to how we perceive both the condition itself and the people struggling with it. It’s also helped further research into possible causes of and treatments for obesity. And new research just made available has uncovered some significant information.

A large number of genes are involved in regulating body weight, and there are now over 30 genes known in which people with harmful changes in DNA sequence become extremely overweight. Similarly, there are a number of genes that can, when altered, cause type 2 diabetes. These conditions are inherited through families in exactly the same way as disorders such as cystic fibrosis or Huntington’s disease.

It is unclear what proportion of severe obesity and type 2 diabetes is caused by genetic disease.

Researchers at Imperial College London discovered the new defect by sequencing the DNA of an extremely obese young woman and members of her family. In addition to an increased appetite leading to severe weight problems from childhood, she had type 2 diabetes, learning difficulties, and reproductive problems.

They found that she had inherited two copies of a harmful genetic change that meant she could not make a protein called carboxypeptidase-E (CPE). This is an enzyme that is important in the proper processing of a number of hormones and brain transmitters controlling appetite, insulin and other hormones important in the reproductive system.

Studies have previously shown that CPE deficiency causes obesity, diabetes, and impaired memory in mice, but no humans with the condition have been found before. CPE deficiency is a recessive condition, so a person would need to inherit the altered genetic sequence from both parents to be affected.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, was funded by the NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Centre and Diabetes UK.

Professor Alex Blakemore from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, who led the study, said: “There are now an increasing number of single-gene causes of obesity and diabetes known. We don’t know how many more have yet to be discovered, or what proportion of the severely obese people in our population have these diseases — it is not possible to tell just by looking.

“These are serious disorders that affect the body’s ability to regulate hunger and fullness signals. They are inherited in the just same way as other genetic diseases and the sufferers should not be stigmatized for their condition. They should be offered genetic counselling and specialized lifelong support to allow them as healthy a life as possible.”

The patient was clinically evaluated by consultant endocrinologist Dr Tony Goldstone, who runs a specialist genetics obesity clinic at Hammersmith Hospital. The patient’s parents are cousins, giving her a relatively high likelihood of inheriting the same genetic change from both parents. She had an older brother with similar symptoms who died aged 21.

The first author Dr Sanne Alsters, also in the Department of Medicine, who carried out the genetic tests, said: “Finding a genetic cause for the patient’s problems has helped her and her family to understand and manage her condition better. We can also look at members of her family with one abnormal copy of the gene, to see they are affected in more subtle ways that could increase their risk of obesity.”

Professor Blakemore said genetic tests should be widely available for patients with severe obesity. “If people are diagnosed with a genetic condition like this one, we can look for other possible symptoms, and offer genetic advice to other family members if they want this. Diagnosis is very valuable to the patient. It helps to set realistic expectations, and can help them get the best possible treatment,” she said.

Research like this can lead to better outcomes for obese people seeking treatment. In addition to those benefits, the stigma surrounding obesity may begin to dissipate. One cannot be responsible for one’s own genetics.  FoodFacts.com is painfully aware that the perception of the obese has not changed.  Obese people can be viewed as people who don’t know when to stop eating and don’t know when to start moving.  That can truly be changed with the realization of a genetic component to the disease. Once the stigma is lifted, treatment can be much more effective.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150630080159.htm

New research links sugary drinks with deaths worldwide

sugary drinksFoodFacts.com takes issue with the existence of chemically-laden sugary beverages – sodas, fruit drinks, energy drinks, canned and bottled iced teas, the list goes on. The sugar content is far too high, especially with the myriad of information we have that points directly to our over-consumption of all things sweet. In addition, the ingredient lists for these beverages most often resemble scientific experiments. We’re uncomfortable with that. After reading this latest research, we hope you’re uncomfortable with it too.

Consumption of sugary drinks may lead to an estimated 184,000 adult deaths each year worldwide, according to research published today in the journal Circulation and previously presented as an abstract at the American Heart Association Council on Epidemiology and Prevention in 2013.

“Many countries in the world have a significant number of deaths occurring from a single dietary factor, sugar-sweetened beverages. It should be a global priority to substantially reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., senior author of the study and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University in Boston.

In the first detailed global report on the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages, researchers estimated deaths and disabilities from diabetes, heart disease, and cancers in 2010. In this analysis, sugar sweetened beverages were defined as any sugar-sweetened sodas, fruit drinks, sports/energy drinks, sweetened iced teas, or homemade sugary drinks such as frescas, that contained at least 50 kcal per 8oz serving. 100 percent fruit juice was excluded.

Estimates of consumption were made from 62 dietary surveys including 611,971 individuals conducted between 1980 and 2010 across 51 countries, along with data on national availability of sugar in 187 countries and other information. This allowed capture of geographical, gender and age variation in consumption levels of sugar-sweetened beverages in different populations. Based on meta-analyses of other published evidence on health harms of sugar-sweetened beverages, the investigators calculated the direct impact on diabetes and the obesity-related effects on cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

In 2010, the researchers estimate that sugar-sweetened beverages consumption may have been responsible for approximately:

• 133,000 deaths from diabetes
• 45,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease
• 6,450 deaths from cancer

“Some population dietary changes, such as increasing fruits and vegetables, can be challenging due to agriculture, costs, storage, and other complexities. This is not complicated. There are no health benefits from sugar-sweetened beverages, and the potential impact of reducing consumption is saving tens of thousands of deaths each year,” Mozaffarian said.

The impact of sugar-sweetened beverages varied greatly between populations. At the extremes, the estimated percentage of deaths was less than 1 percent in Japanese over 65 years old, but 30 percent in Mexican adults younger than 45. Of the 20 most populous countries, Mexico had the highest death rate attributable to sugar-sweetened beverages with an estimated 405 deaths per million adults (24,000 total deaths) and the U.S. ranked second with an estimated 125 deaths per million adults (25,000 total deaths).

About 76 percent of the estimated sugar-sweetened beverage-related deaths occurred in low- or middle-income countries.

In nations of the Caribbean and Latin America, such as Mexico, homemade sugary drinks (e.g. frescas) are popular and consumed in addition to commercially prepared sugar-sweetened beverages. “Among the 20 countries with the highest estimated sugar-sweetened beverage-related deaths, at least 8 were in Latin America and the Caribbean, reflecting the high intakes in that region of the world,” said Gitanjali Singh, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a research assistant professor at the Friedman School.

Overall, in younger adults, the percent of chronic disease attributed to sugar-sweetened beverages was higher than the percent in older adults. “The health impact of sugar-sweetened beverage intake on the young is important because younger adults form a large sector of the workforce in many countries, so the economic impact of sugar-sweetened beverage-related deaths and disability in this age group can be significant. It also raises concerns about the future. If these young people continue to consume high levels as they age, the effects of high consumption will be compounded by the effects of aging, leading to even higher death and disability rates from heart disease and diabetes than we are seeing now,” Singh said.

Are sugary drinks really worth all that? Isn’t it time for us all to rethink our beverage consumption? Maybe while we’re doing all that thinking, we should pour ourselves a nice glass of ice cold water. At least it’s a start.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150629162646.htm

Burger King’s Fully Loaded Crossan’wich … not the best way to start your day

Croissanwich_Loaded_desktopYou’ll probably never see FoodFacts.com advocating for anyone to choose a fast food breakfast sandwich over an actual, prepared-at-home-in-your-own-kitchen breakfast. Unless and until the food world changes drastically, we remain firmly in the “avoid” camp. Still, we know that sometimes, even nutritionally conscious people end up in situations that present them with few choices. If you’re ever in one of those situations and somehow end up in the nearest Burger King, take the Fully Loaded Crossan’wich off your list of possibilities.

It’s that bad. Here’s what our investigation turned up:

Nutrition Facts:
Calories:                      640
Fat:                               42 grams
Saturated Fat:            16 grams
Sodium:                      1740 mg

This breakfast sandwich seriously resembles a burger. The nutrition facts are that bad. This is an excessive breakfast, even for fast food. Among bad choices, this sandwich is a bad choice. Let’s find out what’s really in there:
Ingredients:
CROISSANT: Enriched Flour [Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid], Water, Margarine [Palm Oil, Water, Soybean Oil, Sugar, Soybean Lecithin with Mono- and Diglycerides added, Potassium Sorbate and Citric Acid (preservatives), Beta Carotene, Vitamin A Palmitate], High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Salt, Sweet Whey, Dough Conditioner [Calcium Sulfate, Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Ester of Monoglyceride (DATEM), Ammonium Sulfate, Enzymes, Ascorbic Acid, Azodicarbonamide], Calcium Propionate, Natural and Artificial Butter Flavor, Modified Cornstarch. HAM: Ham cured with: Water, Dextrose, Contains 2% or less of salt, sodium lactate, sodium phosphate, natural smoke flavoring, sodium diacetate, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite, coated with caramel coloring. MILD SAUSAGE: Pork, Salt, Spices, Corn Syrup Solids, Dextrose, Monosodium Glutamate, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Grill Flavor (from Soybean Oil). THICK SLICED BACON: Cured with Water, Salt, Sugar, Sodium Phosphate, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite. EGG PATTY – FULLY COOKED: Whole Egg, Whey, Soybean Oil, Salt, Natural and Artificial Butter Flavor, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acide, Annatto (color). AMERICAN CHEESE (PASTEURIZED PROCESS): Cultured Milk, Water, Cream, Sodium Citrate, Salt, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Sodium Phosphate, Artificial Color, Enzymes, Acetic Acid, Soy Lecithin.

Too many ingredients. Too many controversial ingredients. Too many calories. Too much fat. Too much saturated fat. Too much sodium.

Burger King needs to get its act together and begin to respond to consumer demand for healthier fast food. The Fully Loaded Crossan’wich is poised to take a shot at our health and well being. We think it needs to be disarmed.

http://www.bk.com/menu-item/fully-loaded-crossanwich

Because Love is Love … Ben & Jerry’s Celebrates Gay Marriage Legalization with “I Dough, I Dough”

I_Dough_I_Dough_Flag_Pint-4779_LargeFoodFacts.com loves how Ben & Jerry’s engages the public with products that highlight the issues and causes of our time. Yes, we know it’s marketing. But unlike most food marketing, Ben & Jerry’s version actually helps people think about things they should be thinking about. Ben & Jerry’s creates a “voice with food” that is both unique and powerful. So it’s no surprise that they’re celebrating gay marriage with ice cream.

Equality has never tasted so sweet. On Friday, Ben & Jerry’s renamed its iconic “Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough” ice cream flavor to “I Dough, I Dough,” in celebration of the historic Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage nationwide.

For a limited time, the specially named flavor will be available at participating Scoop Shops in a commemorative pint sleeve. If you want to celebrate with your own pint at home, the sleeve can also be purchased online through the Human Rights campaign, with all proceeds benefitting the organization.

“Ben & Jerry’s is proud of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision against discrimination as it boldly stands up for equality for same sex couples everywhere,” Jostein Solheim, the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s, said in a press release.

The company is a longtime supporter of equal rights. Ben & Jerry’s writes on its website that in 1989, it was “the first major employer in Vermont to offer health insurance to domestic partners of employees, including same sex couples, and we haven’t spent one minute regretting it.”

In 2009, the company celebrated the legalization of gay marriage in Vermont by renaming the “Chubby Hubby” flavor to “Hubby Hubby.” A year later, one of Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops in Washington, D.C. served as the venue for a gay wedding, when same sex couples could first tie the knot in the district.

Ben & Jerry’s continues to be a great example of a better food marketing concept. It doesn’t always have to be a questionable strategy that involves a lack of transparency about food and beverage products. Strategies to boost product sales CAN be different. And no matter how you feel about Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, or the issues the company supports, the company is an important example of how food marketers can take a different approach, spread a message and be successful.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/26/ben-and-jerrys-gay-marriage-flavor_n_7672056.html

No more artificial flavors and colors for General Mills

TrixIf you are among the many thousands of parents who desperately avoid the cereal aisle when your little ones are shopping with you, you’re not alone. That cereal aisle is a mine field full of sugar and artificial everything. FoodFacts.com has done our fair share of wrangling with small children to remove that box of Lucky Charms from their tight grip. We know the story. The kids see the cereal on a television commercial. They play branded games on the cereal’s website. They come with you to the store and the boxes of the cereals we don’t want our kids to have are the ones that are easiest for them to reach. The packaging is brightly colored and features fun characters the kids are already familiar with. And then you’ve got a problem.

General Mills is the latest food manufacturer committed to helping you with that problem by 2017 Trix, Lucky Charms and other iconic cereals are getting a natural upgrade in the latest bid by a major food company to create healthier products.

General Mills (GIS) said Monday that it will phase out artificial flavors and colors from all of its cereals by 2017. The announcement is the latest from an ever-growing group of food retailers vowing to ax artificial ingredients, including Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Panera, Kraft Foods Group and Subway.

“We’ve continued to listen to consumers who want to see more recognizable and familiar ingredients on the labels and challenged ourselves to remove barriers that prevent adults and children from enjoying our cereals,” said Jim Murphy, president of General Mills cereal division, in a statement.

Packaged-food companies are losing market share and seeing revenue fall as consumers turn toward brands known for less processed, simpler, more authentic food. Many companies are trying to draw back customers’ attention by redoing products with fewer complex ingredients and taking stands against additives like antibiotics in meat.

Those that don’t will likely lose customers, says Kelly O’Keefe, a brand management professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“They need to be investing, they need to be changing out their product lines with better ingredients and they need to do it very quickly,” he says. “In the next two to three years, if you’re not moving in the right direction you’re going to see those brands fading rapidly into obscurity.”

General Mills cereals such as Trix and Reese’s Puffs will now be made with fruit and vegetable juices and natural vanilla. Trix will lose some colors in the process. The company began reformulating it about three years ago, and when the new version rolls out this winter, it will have just four colors instead of six. Blue and green didn’t make the cut because the company hasn’t identified a suitable natural alternative.

“We’re continuing to work on them, but they didn’t deliver on that vibrant color that we expect from Trix,” says Kate Gallager, a General Mills cereal developer. Reese’s Puffs, also rolling out this winter, will no longer be artificially colored, but Gallager says the difference is barely noticeable. The recipe changes will only affect cereals sold in the U.S. and Canada.

General Mills, whose cereals include Corn Chex, Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs, Wheaties and Fiber One, declined to say how much it’s investing to upgrade ingredients, but the cost won’t be passed along to consumers, says spokesman Mike Siemienas.

Though consumers will likely eventually have to pay for all the ingredient changes food companies are making, O’Keefe says.

“(Companies) might be willing to take a slightly shallower profit for a couple years, but ultimately, if they’re not passing along the cost to the consumers, they’re not staying in business.”

Artificial ingredients are already absent from 60% of General Mills cereals, the company said. They either never had them or they were already replaced.

Reformulating cereals with marshmallows will be a focus next year, says the company, adding this may take longer than grain-heavy cereals. General Mills plans to have more than 90% of the cereal portfolio artificial-free by the end of 2016, with 100% free by the end of 2017.

The hardest part about switching from artificial ingredients to natural ingredients is maintaining consistent flavor and texture, according to Gallager. Natural dyes like turmeric for yellow, paprika for red and fruit and vegetable concentrates can sometimes impart too much flavor or don’t produce colors that are as bold.

Beyond cereal, General Mills says it’s already transforming multiple product lines to make them healthier.

So by 2017, Lucky Charms will be magically delicious without artificial colors and flavors. Depending on the other ingredients, you may or may not decide to allow for the inclusion of that adorable leprechaun in your food pantry. But you will have a little less to worry about. And grocery shopping with the kids may get a little easier.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2015/06/22/general-mills-artificial-ingredients-cereal/29101165/

Lose abdominal fat, get smarter and live longer. A fast-mimicking diet might just do the trick!

Scientists-say-five-day-fast-mimicking-diet-is-safeRemember all those crazy fad diets from when you were a teenager? The grapefruit diet. The cabbage soup diet. The 7 day fast diet. Most of us happily tried those and more. Of course we lost weight. We put it right back on though. And we were, most likely, grumpy and irritable through the process. There’s been some research that points to the idea that fasting may have a place in a healthy lifestyle. (Of course, no one’s mentioned anything about fasting on cabbage soup!) New Information is linking a fast-mimicking diet to many important health benefits.

New research led by USC’s Valter Longo shows that periodically adopting a diet that mimics the effects of fasting may yield a wide range of health benefits.

In a new study, Longo and his colleagues show that cycles of a four-day low-calorie diet that mimics fasting (FMD) cut visceral belly fat and elevated the number of progenitor and stem cells in several organs of old mice — including the brain, where it boosted neural regeneration and improved learning and memory.

The mouse tests were part of a three-tiered study on periodic fasting’s effects — testing yeast, mice and humans — set to be published by Cell Metabolismon June 18.

Mice, which have relatively short life spans, provided details about fasting’s lifelong effects. Yeast, which are simpler organisms, allowed Longo to uncover the biological mechanisms that fasting triggers at a cellular level. And a pilot study in humans found evidence that the mouse and yeast studies were applicable to humans.

Bimonthly cycles that lasted four days of an FMD which started at middle age extended life span, reduced the incidence of cancer, boosted the immune system, reduced inflammatory diseases, slowed bone mineral density loss and improved the cognitive abilities of older mice tracked in the study. The total monthly calorie intake was the same for the FMD and control diet groups, indicating that the effects were not the result of an overall dietary restriction.

In a pilot human trial, three cycles of a similar diet given to 19 subjects once a month for five days decreased risk factors and biomarkers for aging, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer with no major adverse side effects, according to Longo.

‘Strict fasting is hard for people to stick to, and it can also be dangerous, so we developed a complex diet that triggers the same effects in the body,’ said Longo, Edna M. Jones professor of biogerontology at the USC Davis School of Gerontology and director of the USC Longevity Institute. Longo has a joint appointment at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. ‘I’ve personally tried both, and the fasting mimicking diet is a lot easier and also a lot safer.’

The diet slashed the individual’s caloric intake down to 34 to 54 percent of normal, with a specific composition of proteins, carbohydrates, fats and micronutrients. It decreased amounts of the hormone IGF-I, which is required during development to grow, but it is a promoter of aging and has been linked to cancer susceptibility. It also increased the amount of the hormone IGFBP-, and reduced biomarkers/risk factors linked to diabetes and cardiovascular disease, including glucose, trunk fat and C-reactive protein without negatively affecting muscle and bone mass.

Longo has previously shown how fasting can help starve out cancer cells while protecting immune and other cells from chemotherapy toxicity.

‘It’s about reprogramming the body so it enters a slower aging mode, but also rejuvenating it through stem cell-based regeneration,’ Longo said. ‘It’s not a typical diet because it isn’t something you need to stay on.’

For 25 days a month, study participants went back to their regular eating habits — good or bad — once they finished the treatment. They were not asked to change their diet and still saw positive changes.

Longo believes that for most normal people, the FMD can be done every three to six months, depending on the abdominal circumference and health status. For obese subjects or those with elevated disease risk factors, the FMD could be recommended by the physician as often as once every two weeks. His group is testing its effect in a randomized clinical trial, which will be completed soon, with more than 70 subjects.

‘If the results remain as positive as the current ones, I believe this FMD will represent the first safe and effective intervention to promote positive changes associated with longevity and health span, which can be recommended by a physician,’ Longo said. ‘We will soon meet with FDA officers to pursue several FDA claims for disease prevention and treatment.’

Despite its positive effects, Longo cautioned against water-only fasting and warned even about attempting the fasting mimicking diet without first consulting a doctor and seeking their supervision throughout the process.

‘Not everyone is healthy enough to fast for five days, and the health consequences can be severe for a few who do it improperly,’ he said. ‘Water-only fasting should only be done in a specialized clinic. Also, certain types of very low calorie diets, and particularly those with high protein content, can increase the incidence of gallstones in women at risk’.

‘In contrast,’ he added, ‘the fasting mimicking diet tested in the trial can be done anywhere under the supervision of a physician and carefully following the guidelines established in the clinical trials.’

Longo also cautioned that diabetic subjects should not undergo either fasting or fasting mimicking diets while receiving insulin, metformin or similar drugs. He also said that subjects with body mass index less than 18 should not undergo the FMD diet.

For the study, Longo collaborated with researchers and clinicians from USC as well as from Texas, Italy and England. The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging.

FoodFacts.com is once again impressed by the power of diet in our health. This information is an impressive example pointing to the importance of diet on our longevity and function. It does sound as though the study authors will be pursuing further research and hopefully seeking out FDA approval for the fast mimicking diet as a preventive measure for disease and a boost for longevity. Food might be the real fountain of youth, after all.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150618134408.htm