Monday, October 26, 2015

AARP Foundation and ProMedica Announce National Root Cause Coalition to Address Hunger as a Public Health Issue

October 26, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In 2014, almost 50 million Americans (14.1 percent of households) were food insecure, meaning they lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life. AARP Foundation and ProMedica are pleased to announce a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to address hunger as a health issue and other social determinants of health.

The primary goal of the organization, titled The Root Cause Coalition, is to become a national leading advocate of programs, policies and research to eradicate hunger, food insecurity and health disparities.

While federal and state safety net programs play a primary role, there is significant potential to engage private sector leaders to help our nation become food secure. Members of the coalition will work together to establish a sustainable national framework for addressing these issues, with special emphasis on engaging the healthcare community.

A key focus area for the coalition will be building on the research that has explored the cycle of hunger and food insecurity and links to chronic diseases and acute medical conditions. An initial research study on promising strategies and tools for non-traditional partner engagement including the healthcare community is entitledTackling Hunger to Improve Health in Americans. This study is being commissioned by The Root Cause Coalition with the CDC Foundation, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As founding members of The Root Cause Coalition, ProMedica and AARP Foundation will work collaboratively to engage organizations across the country in identifying what's already working and in developing and implementing new solutions to improve the health status of individuals and communities.

Coalition membership will include a range of organizations along the food supply chain, including healthcare providers, consumer good companies and non-profits. While healthcare plays a leading role, the industries that manufacture and distribute food are also part of any viable business solution to ensuring affordable and accessible nutrition in the U.S. food supply.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, hunger disproportionately impacts children, the elderly, veterans, low-income and the chronically ill.

Studies have found that children who are food insecure are at a higher risk of adverse health including risk of asthma. Malnutrition in adults, especially among the elderly, can increase the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as lengthen hospital stays.

"Given the scope, depth and duration of the problem of hunger in America—with one in seven households lacking nutritious food—we need new strategies and tactics that will bring sustainable change," said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of AARP Foundation.

"The Root Cause Coalition aims to provide an innovative approach to combatting hunger, by bringing different industries together, including healthcare providers and food manufacturers, to collaborate for a new solution on treating hunger as a health issue. This is particularly important for the low income 50-plus population AARP Foundation serves."

"It's time to completely rethink how our organizations serve the needs of patients and communities and make fundamental changes in the healthcare delivery system," said Randy Oostra, ProMedica president and CEO.

 "Hunger is a dire public health concern and healthcare providers are seeing more evidence of it every day. Industry collaboration is more critical than ever before to tackle this crisis and improve health outcomes throughout our nation." 

The coalition will publicly report research findings and maintain a data repository for members with in-depth statistics and information that more clearly links hunger and food insecurity to health issues. At the initial meeting in Washington, DC, participants will discuss key objectives, in particular how to propel hunger and other social determinants of health as a focal point for action within the healthcare industry.

The coalition is actively recruiting a range of organizations across the U.S. to join the cause. Collectively, members of the coalition will develop, implement, and share replicable strategies and best practices that can be applied across communities nationwide while targeting high-risk populations.

Members will have access to a variety of resources and educational programs along with the opportunity to serve on national advisory committees.

For more information about The Root Cause Coalition, visit

The Root Cause Coalition is a nonprofit organization founded by ProMedica, a nonprofit healthcare system, and AARP Foundation, AARP's affiliated charity, to engage health professionals from all disciplines and provider models, public health organizations, government officials, the nutrition and food industry, and other organizations, for the purpose of developing and implementing sustainable solutions to improve our nation's health and well-being.

Its name, The Root Cause Coalition, demonstrates the deeply interconnected links between reducing hunger across the nation and improving individual and community health.

The Mission of The Root Cause Coalition is to address the social determinants of health, with specific emphasis on hunger as a public health issue, to improve the health status of individuals and communities. For more information, visit

Could a Drug Engineered From Bananas Fight Many Deadly Viruses? New Results Show Promise

Scientists peel helpful & harmful properties of a natural substance apart, harnessing the “sugar code” that lets viruses enter cells

Newswise, October 26, 2015. — A banana a day may not keep the doctor away, but a substance originally found in bananas and carefully edited by scientists could someday fight off a wide range of viruses, new research suggests. 

And the process used to create the virus-fighting form may help scientists develop even more drugs, by harnessing the “sugar code” that our cells use to communicate. That code gets hijacked by viruses and other invaders.

The new research focuses on a protein called banana lectin, or BanLec, that “reads” the sugars on the outside of both viruses and cells. Five years ago, scientists showed it could keep the virus that causes AIDS from getting into cells – but it also caused side effects that limited its potential use. 

Now, in a new paper published in the journal Cell, an international team of scientists reports how they created a new form of BanLec that still fights viruses in mice, but doesn’t have a property that causes irritation and unwanted inflammation. 

They succeeded in peeling apart these two functions by carefully studying the molecule in many ways, and pinpointing the tiny part that triggered side effects. Then, they engineered a new version of BanLec, called H84T, by slightly changing the gene that acts as the instruction manual for building it. 

The result: a form of BanLec that worked against the viruses that cause AIDS, hepatitis C and influenza in tests in tissue and blood samples – without causing inflammation. The researchers also showed that H84T BanLec protected mice from getting infected by flu virus. 

“What we’ve done is exciting because there is potential for BanLec to develop into a broad spectrum antiviral agent, something that is not clinically available to physicians and patients right now,” says David Markovitz, M.D., co-senior author of the new paper and a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. “But it’s also exciting to have created it by engineering a lectin molecule for the first time, by understanding and then targeting the structure.”

A global project tackles a global problem

The 26 scientists on the team – from Germany, Ireland, Canada, Belgium and the United States – worked together over several years to figure out exactly how BanLec worked against viruses, and then to build a better version. They were funded by the U.S. and European governments, and by foundations.

They used a wide range of scientific tools – including X-ray techniques used by the U-M Center for Structural Biology that let them figure out the location of every atom in the original and new forms of BanLec.

Their efforts helped them understand how BanLec connects to both viruses and to sugar molecules on the outside of cells, and how it leads to irritation and other side effects by triggering signals that call in the “first responders” of the body’s immune system. 

This understanding is what allowed them to change the gene in a way that fine-tuned the BanLec molecule. The new one still kept viruses out of cells, but doesn’t have the property that triggers the immune system response. 

The new version of BanLec has one less tiny spot on its surface for sugars to attach, called a “Greek key” site. This makes it impossible for sugars on the surface of immune system cells called T cells to attach in multiple spots at once and trigger inflammation. But it still allows BanLec to grab on to sugars on the surface of viruses and keep them from getting into cells. 

Several years of research still lie ahead before BanLec can be tested in humans. But Markovitz and his co-senior author Hashim M. Al-Hashimi, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry at Duke University and formerly professor of chemistry and biophysics at U-M, hope that their team’s work can help address the lack of antiviral drugs that work well against many viruses or against viruses that change rapidly, such as influenza. 

“Better flu treatments are desperately needed,” says Markovitz, who treats patients with infectious diseases at the U-M Health System. “Tamiflu is only modestly effective, especially in critically ill patients, and influenza can develop resistance to it. But we also hope that BanLec could become useful in situations such as emergency pandemic response, and military settings, where the precise cause of an infection is unknown but a viral cause is suspected.”

The team continues to test H84T BanLec against other viruses in mice and tissue samples.

Cracking the sugar code

Even while work on H84T BanLec continues, the team’s achievement in engineering a lectin molecule opens doors to other work on other lectins. Lectin molecules read the sugar code of sugar molecules that cover the surface of many viruses and cells. 

Scientists still don’t fully understand all the things that the sugar code controls – but suspect it may be almost as powerful for controlling how our cells work as the DNA code inside cells. Sugars, and the lectins that attach to them, seem to play a key role in how cells “talk” to one another, call for help, and perform other functions. 

In fact, one of the mysteries remaining for BanLec work is just how the T cells of the immune system actually attach to it. Hans-Joachim Gabius, Ph.D., the leader of the German part of the team, is working to explore this further, and to use this newly-engineered tool to look at other aspects of the sugar code. 

Markovitz also notes that U-M professor emeritus Irwin Goldstein, Ph.D., a co-author on the new paper, was a key pioneer in sugar code work, or glycobiology. His work and that of others paved the way for innovations that harness the sugar code in new ways to fight disease.

The University of Michigan has intellectual property related to BanLec, and is actively working to bring the technology to market. The study’s co-lead authors, Michael Swanson, Ph.D., and Daniel Boudreaux, Ph.D., worked in Markovitz’s and Al-Hashimi’s laboratories as doctoral student and postdoctoral fellow, respectively. 

An important part of the work to decode the structure of the BanLec molecules was done by Jeanne Stuckey, Ph.D. and Jennifer Meagher, Ph.D. of the Center for Structural Biology at the U-M Life Sciences Institute, using the Advanced Photon Source synchrotron at Argonne National Laboratory and funding in part from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The BanLec crystal structure has been deposited in the Protein Data Bank (3RFP). 

Funding for the work included National Institutes of Health grants to U-M CA144043, AI096138, AI073146, and AI50410, as well as other grants held by collaborating researchers.
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Friday, October 16, 2015

8 Fresh Ways Fruits and Vegetables Are Getting Into Your Diet

Newswise, October 16, 2015 — CHICAGO— Half of Americans are determined to eat more fruits and vegetables this year according to Innova Market Insights. Because fruits and vegetables are now in just about every food and beverage category, consumers shouldn’t have a problem doing so. 

In the October issue of Food Technology magazine published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), senior associate editor Karen Nachay looks at eight different ways fruits and vegetables are turning up in unexpected places.

1. Cauliflower: From 2013 to 2014 Innova Market Insights found a 22 percent increase in global product launches containing cauliflower. It can be roasted, mashed, pureed and included in everything from pizza to ice cream.
2. Exotic Fruits and Vegetables: Consumers are becoming more willing to try more than just apples and oranges these days and fruits and vegetables like kohlrabi, rhubarb, dragon fruit, passion fruit, sour cherry, prickly pear, and celeriac are easier to find in your local grocery store.
3. Cruciferous Vegetables: Now that consumers are realizing that these types of vegetables can taste good when properly prepared (CCD Innovation Culinary Trend Mapping Report, 2014), chefs are turning to unique preparations of parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, dinosaur kale and sea vegetables.
4. Coconut Water: New blends of coconut water with other fruit and vegetable juices highlight tropical fruits like mango and even spinach, red beet, and carrot juices.
5. Yogurt: Yogurt is taking on a savory twist with the addition of new flavors like sweet potato, beet, butternut squash, tomato, kimchi, coconut lemongrass, fig and parsnip.
6. Chilled Soups: While most people think of gazpacho as tomato-based cold soup, the addition of new fruits and vegetables like papaya, watermelon, cucumber, and lemon coriander give this classic soup a new appeal.
7. Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes are no longer just ingredients in pies and side dishes; companies are using sweet potatoes as ingredients in juices, muffins, cheesecake, sauces, and even beer.
8. Natural Food Coloring: As consumers are scrutinizing food labels with synthetic ingredients, manufacturers are turning to fruits and vegetables for naturally derived coloring options. Fruits and vegetables can be minimally processed into purees or juice concentrates to extract the pigments that give them their color.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Power Up Throughout the Day with Protein

(Family Features),  October 8, 2015-- As the building blocks of life, your body requires protein to function properly. But protein is also an important nutrient for those who wish to stay satisfied and full throughout their busy days.

Why protein is essential
A vital part of every diet, proteins are made up of a chain of amino acids which work to repair damaged cells and create new ones. According to the National Institutes of Health, the right amount of protein can be found in a well-balanced, complete diet.

While sources of protein are often found in meats, eggs and fish, they can also be found in a variety of plant-based foods, such as soy, nuts and certain grains. As the average American’s schedule grows busier by the minute, it’s important to know the many convenient sources of protein available.

Fuel the day
A successful day at work requires the focus and energy from a complete, balanced diet, including the addition of protein sources when possible. Try these tips and meal ideas for filling your morning and afternoon meals with smarter, more powerful food picks:
·        Breakfast. Check one item – having a wholesome morning meal – off your list of things to do each and every day. Perfect for those rushed, on-the-go mornings, opt for a protein-packed smoothie. Available in many flavorful varieties, they’re easy to throw in your bag and enjoy as you commute.
·        Snack. A satisfying snack is one that will keep energy levels up and carry you over to your next meal. Some smart and satisfying options include Premier Protein 30g Bars and Fiber Bars. They are gluten-free and a good source of fiber, available in a variety of flavors and offer up to 30 grams of protein per bar. Keep them on hand in your desk or computer bag so you’re always able to snack whenever hunger hits. For more satisfying snacks, visit
·        Lunch. Amp up the protein on your turkey sandwich by replacing mayo and mustard with hummus, and use high-protein bread instead of regular whole wheat. For salads, add sliced hard boiled eggs and chickpeas. For a sweet power-packed side, try cottage cheese topped with sliced peaches or Greek yogurt topped with fresh blueberries.
·        Post-workout fuel. Whether you exercise in the morning or after a long day at the office, give your body the fuel it needs to recover. A rich and creamy Premier Protein Shake, available in chocolate, vanilla and strawberries & cream, offers up 30 grams of protein and contains only 160 calories and 1 gram of sugar.

Make balanced meals and snack options a part of every day with the various protein-packed sources available. No matter what your social or work life demands, there are always simple ways to help you stay balanced, fueled and healthy.

Good news: Cow's milk promotes absorption of essential antioxidant

Newswise, October 8, 2015– New research shows that the estimated one-third of Americans who have a cluster of health problems that add up to metabolic syndrome don’t absorb dietary vitamin E as effectively as healthy people.

The same study also had good news for the whole population: Cow’s milk with or without fat promotes absorption of the natural form of vitamin E found in foods.

People in the study who drank milk along with the natural form of vitamin E absorbed between 26.1 and 29.5 percent of the vitamin, depending on their health status.

Participants with metabolic syndrome absorbed less vitamin E than healthy people in the study, which concerns researchers because these individuals probably receive less of the beneficial antioxidant properties of vitamin E.

Previous research has shown that on average, humans absorb about 10 percent of a dose of the most common vitamin E supplement if it is eaten without any fat. The percentage of vitamin E absorbed after it is consumed refers to its bioavailability, or how much of a given dose reaches the bloodstream. Its bioavailability is influenced by processes that regulate fat absorption and the delivery of fat to the bloodstream.

Metabolic syndrome is defined as the presence of at least three of five factors that increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes – excess belly fat, elevated blood pressure, low “good” cholesterol, and high levels of blood glucose and triglycerides. An estimated 35 percent of Americans have metabolic syndrome.

“The fact that people with metabolic syndrome had lower bioavailability of vitamin E was expected, but it had never been studied before and therefore we’ve had no guidance to make recommendations for that population,” said Richard Bruno, professor of human nutrition at The Ohio State University and lead author of the study.

“This work tells us that at least one-third of Americans have higher vitamin E requirements than healthy people,” Bruno said. “Dietary requirements of nutrients are generally defined only in the context of what a healthy person needs, but considering that two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, a healthy person might not be representative of our society.”

The research, funded by the National Dairy Council, is published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Because obesity is the hallmark of metabolic syndrome, weight loss would be the most logical way to create better conditions in the body for vitamin E absorption, Bruno said. Most successful dieters cut calories by cutting fat, but fat-containing foods tend to be among the best dietary sources of vitamin E.

“People with metabolic syndrome could benefit from guidance to help them restrict calorie intake without sabotaging their vitamin E intake,” he said.

Alpha-tocopherol, a natural form of vitamin E in food and the only form essential to human health, is an antioxidant that prevents fats from becoming rancid in the body. The recommended daily intake is 15 milligrams, and most Americans consume about half that amount.

Bruno’s previous work had suggested that the fat in cream cheese could promote absorption of vitamin E when provided as alpha-tocopheryl acetate, the form commonly found in dietary supplements. In this new study of 10 healthy participants and 10 people with metabolic syndrome, he sought to determine to what extent milk fat might function as a vehicle to improve vitamin E bioavailability regardless of health status when provided as alpha-tocopherol, the form naturally found in food.

“It was an effort to mimic what most Americans do in the morning: Grab something to drink and take their vitamin pills,” he said. “Even though the amount of milk fat made no difference in the effect, the bioavailability of vitamin E when taken with a glass of milk was nearly three times higher than expected based on prior studies.

“Milk doesn’t have any appreciable vitamin E content, so to promote absorption, it needs to be paired with food containing vitamin E to help facilitate its bioavailability.”

The most serious neurological effects caused by vitamin E deficiency are rare, but Bruno said a significant proportion of Americans are living at “suboptimal status” when it comes to fully benefiting from vitamin E’s antioxidant properties.

The researchers used a supplement containing the natural form of alpha-tocopherol, which is abundant in certain vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. The common vitamin E supplement found in grocery stores contains a chemically modified form of the vitamin – alpha-tocopheryl acetate – meaning these findings might not apply to the average vitamin E supplement unless a consumer specifically uses a supplement containing alpha-tocopherol.

Though the study didn’t specify how metabolic syndrome risk factors blunt vitamin E absorption, levels of proteins in the blood that carry fat gave the researchers some clues. Two lipoproteins in particular stood out: one generated by the small intestine and another in the liver that secretes fat and vitamin E into the blood. In study participants with metabolic syndrome, vitamin E enrichment in both lipoproteins was lower than in healthy people.

“This could imply that people with metabolic syndrome either have impairment of absorption of vitamin E at the small intestine or because of an inability for vitamin E to get out of the liver,” Bruno said. “We don’t know which – it could be either one or both acting together.”

Bruno is now working to determine a precise recommendation for the increased vitamin E needs for people with metabolic syndrome.

This work was also supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, which funds Ohio State’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science

Co-authors include Eunice Mah, Teryn Sapper, Chureeporn Chitchumroonchokchai, Mark Failla, and Kevin Schill of the Department of Human Sciences Human Nutrition Program; and Steven Clinton of the Division of Oncology, all at Ohio State; and Gerd Bobe and Maret Traber of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.