Tag Archives: nutrition

The ugly truth about the correlation of race, income and diabetes in U.S. communities

Farmer's marketThe steadily rapid increase of the number of people with diabetes in the United States is, needless to say, alarming. About 30 million Americans are now confirmed with the disease, and about 95 percent of them suffer from type 2 diabetes. Many of these cases have resulted to devastating consequences. Severe ones, which are poorly managed and/or left untreated have led to kidney damage, limb amputations and even death. In the last six years, diabetes is cited as among the top 10 causes of fatality in the United States.

Type 2 is the food-related form of diabetes, generally caused by diets that are high in sugar, sodium and fat. Foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains lower the risk of this form of the disease. Unfortunately, proper, nutritious foods are not always accessible for all, thus making individuals and families in certain communities more susceptible to type 2 diabetes. More often than not, issues on access to healthy foods involve proximity and affordability.

Diabetes is, undoubtedly, a concern for the entire U.S. population. However, staggering reports show that low income, African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans are twice as likely to be diabetic than the affluent, whites. It is important to note that there are other factors that contribute to this disparity, including barriers to proper health care, which essentially gets the members of these communities diagnosed and treated – scarcity of local clinics, transportation to medical facilities, lack of insurance and the ability to afford medication.

The Union of Concerned Scientists recently conducted a study that shows the correlation between diabetes, and race and income that centers on the physical accessibility to healthy foods. The researchers used public data on food access, demographics and ultimately, health outcomes.

The study conclusively reports that diabetes and food access are directly correlated. Counties with populations consisting of lower income people of color lower are significantly more at risk of the disease than higher income communities, due to fewer food retailers that offer healthy options and more fast foods and convenience stores in their proximity.

foodfacts.com founder, Stanley Rak, started The Rak Foundation for Nutritional Awareness to bring attention to issues just like this that are impacting low-income communities. See how you can help here.

Find some helpful information on ways you can reduce your risk of diabetes here

Health is wealth, and for women oily fish is really rich

FoodFacts.com understands that there aren’t a lot of studies that have focused on the benefits of Omega 3s for women’s health. Little research has been done that has shown that women can reap the same benefits as men.

However, a groundbreaking new study has shown that a diet rich in oily fish can cut the risk of heart attack and stroke in women of childbearing age by 90%. That’s a pretty amazing number. And all you have to do to enjoy this statistic is increase your consumption of omega-3 fatty acids. Those are the ones found in oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines.

Fish oil has long been recognized as important for heart health, however it is now believed because of gender differences, fish oil may be even more beneficial for women of child-bearig age helping with blood pressure and heart and blood vessel function.

The study out of the Statens Serum Institute in Compenhagen researched 49,000 women between the ages of 15 and 49 all in the stages of early pregnancy. They were questioned about the amount and type of food they ate, how often they included fish in their diet, as well as their lifestyle and family history. The most common fish women ate according to the study were cod, salmon, herring and mackerel.

These women were monitored for an eight year period. Over the course of that time 577 cardiovascular events (things like heart attacks and strokes) were noted. Five of these events resulted in death.

The research revealed that the women in the study who rarely or never ate fish had 90% more cardiovascular problems then the women who ate oily fish every week.

This is one of the largest studies of its kind undertaken that has focused exclusively on women of child-bearing age. It was noted that the cardiovascular benefits of a diet that regularly includes oily fish were evident in this study at fairly modest dietary levels. There are questions regarding how increasing those levels may increase the benefits even further.

We want to make sure the women in our community stay educated and healthy. Here is a list of some other oily fish that will help you reap the benefits of a diet that’s rich in Omega 3s:

Salmon, Trout, Mackerel, Herring, Sardines, Pilchards, Kipper, Eel, Whitebait, Tuna (fresh, not canned), Anchovies, Swordfish, Bloater, Cacha, Carp, Hilsa, Jack fish, Katla, Orange Roughy, Pangras, Sprats

FoodFacts.com will continue to keep our eye out for news like this that can help our community pursue health through the latest research.

The changing faces of the foods we eat

FoodFacts.com is constantly fascinated by the changing lenses through which particular foods are viewed. Do you remember back in the 90’s when the “no-fat” craze had us turning to completely fat-free products, thinking they were good for us. Did anyone, during that time, stop to think what was replacing the fats in fat-free cheeses or fat-free mayonnaise? Caffeine was frowned upon. And chocolate was really just candy.

It’s amazing what a difference a decade can make! Let’s take a look at a few foods whose bad reputations have turned around.

Just a few decades ago, eating whole eggs was considered one of the unhealthiest things you could do. Products like Egg Beaters, and other egg substitutes came to the rescue for egg lovers everywhere. You could order egg white omelets at the diner; you would mix up a turkey meatloaf with egg whites and discard the yolks and angel food cake had a resurgence of popularity because whole eggs were just bad for you. The confusion over eggs stems from their cholesterol content. One large egg contains 213 mg of cholesterol, accounting for two-thirds of the recommended daily limit. When scientists learned that high blood cholesterol was associated with heart disease, foods high in cholesterol logically became suspect. But after 25 years of study, it has become evident that cholesterol in food is not the culprit — saturated fat has a much bigger effect on blood cholesterol. And one egg contains about 1.6 grams of saturated fat. In 2000, the American Heart Association (AHA) revised its dietary guidelines and gave healthy adults the green light to enjoy eggs once again. The AHA’s guidelines now allow an egg a day for healthy adults while still advising a total daily cholesterol limit of 300 mg.

Twenty years ago, caffeine was questionable. Is it good for you? Is it bad for you? Coffee houses were becoming increasingly popular and offering up brews of varying caffeination all over. The trend was to try to avoid it. But not so much today. Recently a new study found that coffee may be linked to the prevention of basal cell carcinoma. And it was linked to the caffeine directly, as those drinking decaf coffee did not experience the same decrease in risk as those drinking caffeinated coffee.

While it will never be true that chocolate can be included in any of the major food groups, it’s becoming widely recognized as having important health effects for those who consume it. A few months ago, research out of Great Britain reviewed seven different studies done on the health benefits of chocolate. For heart health, the studies revealed significant benefits for chocolate. It possesses antioxidant, antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-atherogenic and anti-thrombotic effects. It’s certainly not advisable to overdo, but a little chocolate is actually good for you.

Things are always changing. We’re always learning more. And sciences are always advancing. The foods we eat can’t be left out of those statements. So FoodFacts.com will always try to bring out the latest information as things continue to change.

Welcoming the new season with a smile

As we at FoodFacts.com gear up for the holiday season, we know that the colder weather is upon us, along with shorter daylight hours and longer evenings. We also know that as the winter approaches, many people start feeling a little “under the weather” and can experience depression. While depression can be hereditary, seasonal, or brought on by life events, it’s not something we just need to live with and through.

More and more research is showing that there is, in fact, nutritional support for dealing with depression. In fact, in a recent British study, the study group population focused more on consuming fresh, whole foods reported significantly fewer instances of depression than those consuming processed foods.

In addition, there are foods whose properties lend themselves to supporting your good mood. Let’s take a look at some of the foods that can help you feel more energetic, and less melancholy as we get closer to winter — or any other time of the year.

Salmon, tuna, trout, halibut or other cold-water fish
Omega-3 fatty acids are gaining notoriety in studies that show evidence that people who eat food with a higher ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids are less likely to get depressed. There are plant-based sources of Omega3s as well, including walnuts, flax seeds, and pumpkin seeds.

Oatmeal, soy milk and two scrambled eggs. Tryptophan is an amino acid that’s a precursor for the neurotransmitter serotonin. This is the brain’s “feel-good” hormone. Eat these foods and you’ll be getting a healthy dose of tryptophan to help your cells increase serotonin production. Many antidepressants are designed to prolong the activity of serotonin in our cells, but you can actually increase the levels by eating carbohydrates (except those found in fruits).

Low levels of the B vitamin folate, found in spinach, peas, navy beans, orange juice, wheat germ or avocado, may play a role in depression in some patients. Folate deficiencies are not uncommon as different medical conditions and medications like aspirin and birth control pills can lead to deficiencies. Research conducted at Harvard University found that depression in folate deficient individuals does not respond well to antidepressants. Increasing the intake of folic acid in food and in supplement form helped to improve the response.

Broccoli helps to stabilize blood sugar levels. Our moods are affected by these levels, and that can affect depression. In addition it’s another vegetable high in folate.

If we work to incorporate these nutritionally positive foods into our diet this winter, we may experience benefits we never associated with food before. And we can help to support our mood til we return to the springtime sun.


FoodFacts.com hopes you have a great Halloween with your family! Tonight, after you’ve tucked the little ones in bed, you’ll probably engage in the tried and true parental secret tradition that’s existed since the very invention of trick-or-treating … the annual parental dig through the candy bag.


You know you’ve done it year in and year out. Kids are picky, and most of the time their favorites and adult favorites are two very different things. So we adults go through the stash piece by piece, finding the candy that we know our kids aren’t going to eat and we make sure it doesn’t go to waste.

So, exactly how detrimental is our yearly sweet, secret tradition? And are some of our favorites worse than others? Here’s a short list of our most popular Halloween treasures with the basic information we need to figure out how much damage we’re doing.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups 230 calories, 13 g fat, 4.5 g saturated f, 20 g sugar (one large peanut butter cup)
Snickers, 280 calories, 14 g. fat, 5 g. saturated f., 30 g. sugar (regular bar)
M&M’s, 210 calories, 9 g. fat, 6 g. saturated fat, 27 g. sugar (1 ½ ou.)
Hershey’s Kisses, 230 calories, 13 g. fat, images-418 g. saturated f., 21 g. sugar (9 pieces)
Nestle Crunch, 220 calories, 11 g. fat, 7 saturated fat, 24 g. sugar (regular bar)
Three Musketeers, 260 calories, 8 g. fat, 5 g. saturated fat, 40 g. sugar (regular bar)
TWIX Caramel Cookie Bars, 280 calories, 14 g. fat, 11 g. saturated fat, 27 g. sugar (one package)

You can see pretty clearly that there really isn’t that much difference between these popular candies, although the sugar content spikes in a few of them. We do have to be careful though, just a little bit of any of these choices goes an awfully long way, and each packs a punch of calories and fat that we really don’t want to overdo. So if one isn’t enough (and it usually isn’t) it’s very easy to go overboard with calories, fats and sugar.images-21

So … remember the old rule you’ve repeated to your children so many times … sometimes more isn’t better. Enjoy your stash! And Happy Halloween!

Unhappy Meal … Bad food isn’t just harmful to your body, it may be harmful to your mind too!

9227396-portrait-of-sad-woman-with-burger-over-white-background1Foodfacts.com wants to pass this information along to our community, as we feel it can really help influence your eating habits and your life.  A Spanish study published in the U.S. in early 2011 confirms that consumption of foods high in trans-fats and saturated fats increases the risk of depression.  There had been previous studies linking fast food and junk foods to the disease and this most recent study confirms them.

Importantly, researchers also showed that products like olive oil, which is high in healthy omega-9 fatty acids, can fight against the risk of mental illness.

The study followed and analyzed the diet and lifestyle of over 12,000 volunteers for over six years.  At the beginning of the study, none of the participants had been diagnosed with depression.  By the end of the study, 657 of the volunteers were new sufferers.  Those volunteers with an elevated consumption of trans-fats which are defined as fats present in artificial form in industrially-produced foods and pastries) presented up to a 48 percent increase in the risk of depression in comparison to those volunteers who did not consume these fats.  It was noted that the more trans-fats were consumed, the greater the harmful effect was produced in volunteers.

Simultaneously it was found that the impact of polyunsaturated fats which are composed of larger amounts of fish and vegetable oils, as well as olive oil, was associated with a lower risk of suffering depression.

It was noted that the test group for the study was composed of a European population that enjoys a relatively low intake of trans-fats, making up only about .4% of the total caloric intake of the volunteers studied.  Regardless of the normally low levels of trans-fat consumption of the test group, there was an increase in the risk of depression of almost 50%.   It was noted that the U.S. population derives about 2.5% of its caloric intake from these trans-fats.

Depression rates have been rising worldwide in recent years.  This important study points to the possibility that that rise may be attributable to the changes in fat sources of Western diets.   Gradually we have been substituting beneficial polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats derived from nuts, vegetables and fish for the saturated and trans-fats found in meats, butters and other mass-produced food products like fast food.

FoodFacts will continue to follow this and other similar stories and keep you updated

Toucan Sam lives to see another day on your grocery shelf


FoodFacts.com has been watching this story develop and wants to bring you the latest news. Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission, the Agriculture Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention jointly wrote a series of guidelines that would set maximum levels of fat, sugars and sodium for food products. This series of guidelines also included a request to the food industry not to specifically market foods that do not adhere to those suggested guidelines to children between the ages of 2 and 17. This request encompassed advertising on television, in stores and on the internet and it also included the removal of cartoon characters from cereal boxes.

The food industry has been fighting back and has aggressively lobbied against the guidelines. They claim that adherence to the proposed guidelines would severely limit the marketing of most all food products in the country and most especially children’s food products. Although they acknowledge that the guidelines are voluntary, they fear that there could be retaliation against them for not adhering.

After hearing industry objectives, government agencies are said to have reconsidered their stance. The Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection acknowledged that they will be making significant revisions to their proposal.

In answer to the government guidelines, food companies came up with their own set of guidelines. While the industry proposal does include limiting advertising on some children’s foods, they’ve adjusted the criteria. While the industry has been praised by officials, their own proposal is far more lenient than the government offering.

Most parents in America have lived through the “grocery store as toy store” effects of children’s food packaging and surprise-inside-the-box marketing tactics on our kids as they joined us at our local markets in their very young years. You can easily assume that those cartoon characters, images and photos are designed to market products to kids before they can actually read. How many times did your three-year-old tell you he or she wanted that box that carried those colorful images gracing not only the box, but the TV-screen as well? Tony the Tiger, Toucan Sam and the Trix Rabbit are pretty powerful, to say the least.

FoodFacts.com just has to ask: if the food industry understands the power of these images in marketing to children, (and we know they absolutely do) why can’t they use them to promote products we’d all be happy to feed our kids? Like cereals that are low in sugar and are made from whole grains that don’t contain fake fruit and odd colors? The industry would still be selling products to children. It’s just that our kids would want us to buy what’s good for them because those appealing characters would now grace the boxes parents would rather purchase. Seems like a win-win to us. Oh … and we could all take a vacation from repeating the word “no” as we walk down supermarket aisles with our three-year-old kids as they point out their animated pals on the store shelves.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup vs. High-Maltose Corn Syrup

One of FoodFacts.com’s Facebook friends recently asked us about high maltose corn syrup and whether or not it was as bad as high-fructose corn syrup. We thought that the FoodFacts blog would be the best place to address this and look at both sweeteners in more detail.

Once you begin researching the subject, one of the first concepts you encounter is the idea that sugar is sugar, in basically any form – and there are many different forms. For instance lactose is a sugar found in dairy products. Fructose is found in fruit and honey. Maltose is a sugar formed by glucose. Our bodies process all sugars in the same manner. High-fructose corn syrup and high-maltose corn syrup, both derived from corn, are sweeteners containing greater amounts of their respective sugars (fructose and maltose). These are processed sweeteners (read sweeteners created from corn – they do not naturally occur).

It sounds pretty simple. So what’s caused the big controversy? If our bodies metabolize all sugars the same regardless of their origins, is the fuss we’ve all heard really necessary?

The Center for Disease Control statistics show that as of 2010 over 33 percent of Americans are obese. Not only that, it relates that there is not one single state in the nation that reports less than a 20 percent obesity rate. Obesity is a problem that has the nation very concerned about the health of our population as well as our future. Out of 195 countries, the U.S. now weighs in at #9 for overweight adults. The numbers are big and they just keep growing.

Some believe that everyone in the U.S. shares a common problem that could be the root cause of our obesity epidemic – the consumption of corn products and sweeteners. Believe it or not, high-fructose corn syrup is in just about every processed food on our grocery shelves. Whether we’re aware of it or not, we are consuming an estimated annual 140 pounds of it per person. Researchers at Princeton University have discovered that the affect of adding high fructose corn syrup into the diets of lab rats points to the concept that our overly processed diets composed of significant amounts of corn sweeteners really is the root of this problem. The Princeton study compared male rats given water sweetened with high fructose corn syrup in addition to a regular diet of rat chow against their counterparts who were the fed rat chow alone. The rats consuming the high-fructose corn syrup sweetened water experienced abnormal weight gain as well as large increases in triglycerides and fat deposits. The sweetener affected both the weight and heart health of the control group.

The connection between the consumption of corn sweeteners and obesity, while compelling, is still a SUSPECTED connection . In fact there are those that charge that the Princeton study cannot be valid as the male rats in the high-fructose corn syrup test group were given the equivalent of 20 cans of soda per day.

What does this mean to you?

First of all, the differences between high fructose corn syrup and high maltose corn syrup aren’t much of a concern. They are both corn based sweeteners and they are both processed food products. While scientists point to the concept that all sugars break down in your body the same way, recent studies are, in fact, illustrating that corn sweeteners can be linked to obesity and heart problems. And while not proven, there’s some pretty compelling information available that would lead us to think that avoiding both as often as possible can’t be a bad idea.

So, from FoodFacts.com, the message remains the same: Consume less processed foods and you’ll have a better understanding of what you’re eating and how it benefits your body.

India sues Monsanto for “Biopiracy”

Foodfacts.com brings to you the latest in genetic engineering. Just recently, India has decided to fight against major agribusiness, Monsanto, after the company allegedly genetically modified an eggplant crop without consent. India is considering this as “biopiracy”, and not backing down from this fight. Check it out below!

Brought to you by Huffington Post:

Add a new word to your lexicon: Biopiracy.

That’s what U.S.-based agribusiness giant Monsanto has been accused of in India, where the government is planning to charge the company with violating the country’s biodiversity laws over a genetically modified version of eggplant.eggplant

In doing so, India has placed itself at the focal point of the movement to challenge genetically modified crops, which opponents say are destroying traditional crops and threatening farmers’ livelihoods.

“This can send a … message to the big companies [that] they are violating the laws of the nation,” K.S. Sugara of the Karnataka Biodiversity Board told France 24 (see video below). “It is not acceptable … that the farmers in our communities are robbed of the advantage they should get from the indigenous varieties.”

India announced last month it is pursuing charges against Monsanto for “stealing” an indigenous crop — eggplant — and using it to create a modified version without permission, a violation of India’s decade-old Biological Diversity Act. It’s the first prosecution of a company for the act of “biopiracy” in the country, and possibly the world.

At the heart of the issue is the phenomenon of the commercialization of indigenous knowledge. Indian farmers argue that they developed the strains of eggplant grown in India over generations, and Monsanto has no right to come in and build a product out of their own indigenous species.

Monsanto took locally-grown eggplant “without any conformance with the biological diversity act, and therefore it is biopiracy,” said Leo Saldanha, director of the Environmental Support Group, an Indian NGO. Saldanha filed the initial complaint that prompted India to pursue charges.

It is not actually illegal to develop GM foods from indigenous crops in India, but the the government placed a moratorium on eggplant development last year after an outcry from farmers. It’s this moratorium that Monsanto is accused of breaking.

However, in the month since the government announced it intends to file charges, no actual charges have been laid. France24 correspondent Vikram Singh said India may be coming under pressure from Monsanto and other multinationals not to pursue the case.

But Singh said government officials insist they are simply taking their time to build a water-tight case.

Farmers’ opposition to Monsanto and genetically modified crops in India goes back to before the eggplant controversy, and traces its roots at least partly to an earlier controversy about genetically modified cotton.

After successfully introducing GM cotton to India, Monsanto was besieged by bad publicity when a failed crop allegedly caused farmers to commit suicide. Crop failures are common in India, but when the GM cotton crop failed, the farmers growing it were saddled with enormous debt.

By some counts, the suicide toll related to GM crop failure is in the hundreds of thousands, though some observers have challenged that notion.

The company has also been accused of using child labor in its cotton seed production operations.

Monsanto has largely refused to comment to the media about the eggplant controversy, but France24 reported that the company is blaming its Indian sub-contractor for the unauthorized use of eggplant species.

France 24’s Singh said the case “will have ramifications beyond this incident. … It’s hugely important because how they handle this will set precedent for cases in the future.”

The stakes for Monsanto are huge. Besides cotton and eggplant, the company sees an enormous potential market for genetically modified corn in India. The St. Louis-based firm’s sales in India have been growing rapidly in recent years and now stand at around $7 billion per year.

Friday’s Food Recalls

Foodfacts.com brings to you the latest news on food recalls!

True Leaf Farms is voluntarily recalling 90 cartons of chopped romaine because of the potential of contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. The recalled product was shipped between September 12 and 13 to an institutional food service distributor in Oregon who further distributed it to at least two additional states, Washington and Idaho. The romaine affected by this recall has a “use by date” of 9/29/11.
No illnesses related to this finding have been reported

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

The recalled bags of romaine were packed in True Leaf Farms cardboard cartons and distributed by Church Brothers, LLC, and shipped between September 12 and 13, 2011. All bags carry a “use by date” of 9/29/11. Produce affected by the recall was labeled as follows:

2# bags, chopped romaine – Bag and box code B256-46438-8
Photos of the recalled product can be viewed at www.churchbrothers.com/recall. This recall includes only chopped romaine as described above.
FDA notified the company today that a sample taken as part of a random check from a single bag of chopped romaine tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. True Leaf Farms is working with FDA to inform consumers of this recall. In addition, the company is working with its food service distribution customers to ensure that other romaine products that may be implicated are pulled from the market.

“We are fully cooperating with the FDA, and we are contacting all of our customers to ensure prompt removal of any product potentially associated with the recall,” said Steve Church, True Leaf Farms. “We are committed to conducting this recall quickly and efficiently to reduce any risk to public health.”

Anyone who has in their possession the recalled romaine as described above should not consume it, and should either destroy it or call Church Brothers, LLC for product pickup.

Consumers with questions or who need information may call Church Brothers, LLC, the sales agent for True Leaf Farms, at 1-800-799-9475, or may visit www.churchbrothers.com for updates.

(Food and Drug Administration)