Monday, November 23, 2015

How to Eat and Stay Healthy This Holiday Season

Rutgers eating behavior expert gives tips on maintaining a healthy lifestyle during the holidays
Newswise, November 23, 2015 — When it comes to maintaining healthy lifestyles, people tend to fall off the wagon from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. Then, they set “get in shape” and “lose weight” as New Year’s resolutions.

That’s not the best idea, says Charlotte Markey, a Rutgers University-Camden psychologist who teaches a course titled “The Psychology of Eating” and studies eating behaviors, body image and weight management. Overeating during the holidays, she notes, is not a matter of if, but when. People need to approach their goals in a smarter way.

Rutgers Today spoke with Markey, the author of Smart People Don’t Diet: How the Latest Science Can Help You Lose Weight Permanently, about a more realistic and sustainable strategy to losing weight and living healthier.

Rutgers Today: Why do New Year’s resolutions and “I’ll start on Monday” diets fail?

Markey: It’s easy to say, “I’ll start eating a certain way or exercising more on Monday or on January 1.” We tend to feel better for making a commitment to ourselves to change our diet – in the future.

But when the time for action inevitably comes, we discover that we are not that committed to the change we pledged to make. When we put pressure on ourselves to radically change our behaviors on a predetermined day, we place unrealistic expectations upon ourselves and set ourselves up to fail. Just because we set a date to make a change doesn’t mean that we as people have changed. We will still crave potato chips on Monday and leftover holiday pie on New Year's Day. 

Rutgers Today: What is a smarter approach to eating better and exercising more?

Markey: Set small, realistic and achievable goals: Save sweets for after dinner and consume them in moderate proportions; have cocktails only on weekends; take several 15-minute walks per week. These little changes can really add up and are more likely to become sustainable habits.

Rutgers Today: What roles do stress and depression play in eating behaviors?

Markey: Most of us experience stress related to the holidays, but everyone responds to stress and depression in different ways. Some people eat more, some eat less and some can’t eat at all. In anticipation of what can be a challenging month for health behaviors, people can be proactive and work in some fun and relaxing activities, such as walks with friends or getting together with others for common activities such as present wrapping.

That said, if emotions and mental health issues are contributing to bad eating habits throughout the year, you should consult a mental health professional who specializes in body image or weight management.

Rutgers Today: Why should people focus on their eating behaviors and physical activity rather than on the goal of simply losing weight?

Markey: People typically achieve their objectives more effectively when they focus on “approach goals,” which are things they should do, instead of “avoidance goals,” which are things they want to avoid. So, instead of telling yourself “Don’t eat carbs, don’t go out to dinner, don’t have that second glass of wine,” say “I’ll try to eat four fruits and vegetables every day, do something active daily, manage my stress and go to bed earlier to get more sleep.”

Rutgers Today: How does planning help a person stay committed to goals?

Markey: Planning can help you avoid the many convenient, but negative, influences, like take-out and TV dinners or a comfortable couch. Plan a few days to a week in advance what days you will have time to exercise and shop for ingredients for healthy meals that you can make – even with a busy schedule.

Rutgers Today: How can your romantic partner positively affect your healthy living goals?

Markey: A romantic partner can be a great source of support and may even be willing to make changes with you. Why not make it a team effort? You can eat off of smaller plates to help control your portions, agree to eat out only once per week, buy bikes and start riding together on the weekends or take a walk after dinner instead of watching TV. You also can praise each other. No one is going to be motivated to eat better or jog more often when they feel so down on themselves that they don’t even want to lace up their jogging shoes.

Even talking to our partners about our bodies has the potential to improve how we feel about ourselves. In a recent study I did at Rutgers, we asked men and women to talk about their bodies and weight with their partners. Most of the 288 participants reported having healthier body ideals after they talked with their partners.

We are often our own worst critics, and partners do not often see the faults that we see in ourselves. Our romantic partners are attracted to us as we are. Talking with them helps us to understand that we need to strive for a healthy body, not an emaciated ideal that we may have initially favored. After all, your ultimate goal is to be healthy and feel good about yourself – no matter your weight.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Avoid a Recipe for Disaster with Properly Cooked Food This Thanksgiving, Expert Says

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Newswise, November 16, 2015--This Thanksgiving many Americans may find one uninvited guest at their meal: food poisoning. A Kansas State University food safety expert shares some food preparation tips for home cooks that will ensure guests pile their plates with safe food dishes and forgo a side of food poisoning.

"Thanksgiving is a time when many cooks turn to those old family recipes and preparation methods when making the meal," said Bryan Severns, manager of food programs and services at the Kansas State University Olathe campus.

"I have seen many instances in which those traditional methods clash with safe food preparation and family members end up sick."

Seasoning is in, stuffing is out
Turkey, duck, quail and other game birds are simple to prepare. Those familiar images of a golden brown turkey filled with stuffing, though, are a recipe for disaster, Severns said.

"For a great tasting bird, rub the inside of the cavity with a seasoning/spice blend made from some salt and pepper and maybe a diced onion or fruit," Severns said.

"Meanwhile, stuffing and dressing should be cooked separately to ensure the bird cooks all the way to 165 degrees Fahrenheit and that your dressing isn't based in raw turkey juices."

Also, Severns says never wash turkey or other raw poultry in the sink to prep it for cooking. There is no safety benefit to rinsing poultry. Instead, washing raw poultry greatly increases the chances of food poisoning as water with the raw juice is likely to splash the cook and the cooking area.

Your goose is cooked — to food safe levels
Juices, joints and timers cannot tell when turkey and other game birds are fully cooked. A calibrated meat thermometer can, Severns says. Use the thermometer to take temperatures in the thickest areas of the bird, such as the breast, thigh and leg. The bird is safe to serve once it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Severns also suggests the following to keep holiday cooking efficient and food safe.
• Raw turkey juice as salad dressing? No way, Severns said. Never use the same cutting board for poultry, raw meats, eggs and vegetables without cleaning and sanitizing between projects.
• Plan your preparation by grouping similar items together to improve efficiency and food safety.

"If you're doing the bird first, clear the counters and sink areas," Severns said. "Set up your sudsy sink and a sanitation sink with bleach solution. Do all the raw bird prep and then clean and sanitize thoroughly, especially knives and cutting boards. Then move on to the veggies."

Have an Apple-Shaped Body? You May Be More Susceptible to Binge Eating

Newswise, November 16, 2015 — Women with apple-shaped bodies – those who store more of their fat in their trunk and abdominal regions – may be at particular risk for the development of eating episodes during which they experience a sense of “loss of control,” according to a new study from Drexel University.

The study also found that women with greater fat stores in their midsections reported being less satisfied with their bodies, which may contribute to loss-of-control eating.

This study marks the first investigation of the connections between fat distribution, body image disturbance and the development of disordered eating.

“Eating disorders that are detected early are much more likely to be successfully treated. Although existing eating disorder risk models comprehensively address psychological factors, we know of very few biologically-based factors that help us predict who may be more likely to develop eating disorder behaviors,” said lead author Laura Berner, PhD, who completed the research while pursuing a doctoral degree at Drexel.

“Our preliminary findings reveal that centralized fat distribution may be an important risk factor for the development of eating disturbance, specifically for loss-of-control eating,” said Berner.

“This suggests that targeting individuals who store more of their fat in the midsection and adapting psychological interventions to focus specifically on body fat distribution could be beneficial for preventing eating disorders.

The study, titled “Examination of Central Body Fat Deposition as a Risk Factor for Loss-of-Control Eating,” was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Berner is now a postdoctoral research fellow at the Eating Disorders Center for Treatment and Research at UC San Diego Health. Michael R. Lowe, PhD, a professor in Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences, was a co-author, along with Danielle Arigo, PhD, who was a postdoctoral research fellow at Drexel and is now an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Scranton; Laurel Mayer, MD, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and the New York State Psychiatric Institute,; and David B. Sarwer, PhD, professor of psychology in Psychiatry and Surgery at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania as well as director of clinical services at the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders.

Mounting evidence suggests that experiencing a sense of loss-of-control during eating – feeling driven or compelled to keep eating or that stopping once one has started is difficult – is the most significant element of binge-eating episodes regardless of how much food is consumed, according to the researchers.

“This sense of loss of control is experienced across a range of eating disorder diagnoses: bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and the binge-eating/purging subtype of anorexia nervosa,” said Berner. “We wanted to see if a measurable biological characteristic could help predict who goes on to develop this feeling, as research shows that individuals who feel this sense of loss of control over eating but don’t yet have an eating disorder are more likely to develop one.”
“This sense of loss of control is experienced across a range of eating disorder diagnoses: bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and the binge-eating/purging subtype of anorexia nervosa,” said Berner.

“We wanted to see if a measurable biological characteristic could help predict who goes on to develop this feeling, as research shows that individuals who feel this sense of loss of control over eating but don’t yet have an eating disorder are more likely to develop one."

Using a large dataset that followed female college freshman for two years, the researchers preliminarily investigated whether body fat distribution is linked to body dissatisfaction over time and increases risk for the development or worsening of loss-of-control eating.

The nearly 300 young adult women completed assessments at baseline, six months and 24 months, that looked at height, weight and total body fat percentage and where it’s distributed. Participants, none of whom met the diagnostic criteria for eating disorders at the start of the study, were assessed for disordered eating behaviors through standardized clinical interviews in which experiences of sense of loss of control were self-reported.

In this sample, the researchers found that women with greater central fat stores, independent of total body mass and depression levels, were more likely to develop loss-of-control eating and demonstrated steadier increases in loss-of-control eating episode frequency over time.

Women with a larger percentage of their body fat stored in the trunk region were also less satisfied with their bodies, regardless of their total weight or depression level.

The findings indicate that storage of body fat in trunk and abdominal regions, rather than elsewhere in the body, is more strongly predictive of loss-of-control eating development and worsening over time, and that larger percentages of fat stored in these central regions and body dissatisfaction may serve as maintenance or exacerbation for loss-of-control eating.

“Our results suggest that centralized fat deposition increased disordered eating risk above and beyond other known risk factors,” said Berner.

 “The specificity of our findings to centralized fat deposition was also surprising.

“For example, a one-unit increase in the percentage of body fat stored in the abdominal region was associated with a 53 percent increase in the risk of developing loss-of-control eating over the next two years, whereas total percentage body fat did not predict loss-of-control eating development.”

According to Berner, more research is needed to explain the mechanism behind these findings, though she speculates that there are a number of reasons why this might happen.

“It’s possible that this kind of fat distribution is not only psychologically distressing, but biologically influential through, for example, alterations in hunger and satiety signaling,” she said.

“Fat cells release signals to the brain that influence how hungry or satiated we feel. Our study didn’t include hormone assays, so we can’t know for sure, but in theory it’s possible that if a centralized distribution of fat alters the hunger and satiety messages it sends, it could make a person feel out of control while eating.”

The findings may apply to other disordered eating behaviors beyond loss-of-control eating, but more research is needed.

“Body fat distribution hasn’t been studied in disorders characterized by binge-eating behaviors as much as it has in anorexia nervosa,” said Berner.

“The participants in our sample didn’t develop eating disorder diagnoses within the two year period that we studied them, but this study suggests that future research should investigate whether individuals with greater central fat stores are more likely to develop bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder."

Friday, November 13, 2015

Kitchen Utensils Can Spread Bacteria Between Foods, UGA Study Finds

Newswise, November 13, 2015--In a recent study funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, University of Georgia researchers found that produce that contained bacteria would contaminate other produce items through the continued use of knives or graters—the bacteria would latch on to the utensils commonly found in consumers’ homes and spread to the next item.

Unfortunately, many consumers are unaware that utensils and other surfaces at home can contribute to the spread of bacteria, said the study’s lead author Marilyn Erickson, an associate professor in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ department of food science and technology.

“Just knowing that utensils may lead to cross-contamination is important,” Erickson said. “With that knowledge, consumers are then more likely to make sure they wash them in between uses.”

Erickson has been researching produce for the past 10 years. Her past work has mainly focused on the fate of bacteria on produce when it’s introduced to plants in the field during farming.

In 2013, she was co-author on a study looking at the transfer of norovirus and hepatitis A between produce and common kitchen utensils—finding that cutting and grating increased the number of contaminated produce items when that utensil had first been used to process a contaminated item.
This study, published in Food Microbiology, is similar in that it considers the influence that knives and graters have on the transfer of pathogenic bacteria to and from produce items. She urges consumers to realize that these germs can spread in their kitchens as well.

Researchers have known that poor hygiene and improper food preparation practices in a consumer’s home can lead to foodborne illnesses, but considering what practices in the kitchen are more likely to lead to contamination has not been examined extensively.

“The FDA was interested in getting more accurate numbers as to what level of cross-contamination could occur in the kitchen using standard practices,” Erickson said.

In her recent study, Erickson contaminated many types of fruits and vegetables in her lab—adding certain pathogens that often can be found on these foods, such as salmonella and E. coli.

Using a knife, Erickson would cut into things like tomatoes or cantaloupe and other types of produce to see how easily the bacteria could spread when the knife was continuously used without being cleaned. Because they “were looking at what would be the worst-case scenario,” she said, Erickson and study co-authors did not wash between cutting these different produce items.

Researchers also grated produce, like carrots, to see how easily the pathogens spread to graters. They found that both knives and graters can cause additional cross-contamination in the kitchen and that the pathogens were spread from produce to produce if they hadn’t washed the utensils.

“A lot of the broken up material and particles from the contaminated produce remained on the graters,” said Erickson, who conducts her research at the UGA Center for Food Safety in Griffin. “Then if you were to shred another carrot or something else immediately after that, it gets contaminated, too.”

The study also found that certain fruits and vegetables spread pathogens to knives to different degrees.

“For items like tomatoes, we tended to have a higher contamination of the knives than when we cut strawberries,” Erickson said. “We don’t have a specific answer as to why there are differences between the different produce groups. But we do know that once a pathogen gets on the food, it’s difficult to remove.”

Knives and graters aren’t the only utensils in the kitchen consumers should be worried about. Erickson has also helped study the role brushes and peelers have on the transfer of dangerous kitchen bacteria.
In concurrent studies, Erickson found that scrubbing or peeling produce items—like melons, carrots and celery—did not eliminate contamination on the produce item but led to contamination of the brush or peeler.

Even when placed under running water, the utensils still became contaminated; however, the ability to cross-contaminate later produce items depended on the brush type and the pathogenic agent.

These studies combined give researchers a better idea as to how common cross-contamination is in the kitchen—even when just using standard practices.

Erickson explained there is a small chance of buying fruits and vegetables contaminated with bacteria, but the problem can occur—whether the product is store-bought or locally grown.

Additional study co-authors were Qing Wang, a doctoral student at the University of Delaware, and Jean Liao, a research professional; and associate professors Jennifer Cannon and Ynes Ortega with UGA’s Center for Food Safety.

The study, “Contamination of knives and graters by bacterial foodborne pathogens during slicing and grating of produce,” is available at

WVU Doctor Helps Create Program to Provide Healthy Fruits, Vegetables to SNAP Recipients

Newswise, November 13, 2015 — As the last couple apples of the season are being plucked for the final days of the Shepherdstown Farmers Market, a new program to provide those fresh fruits to more consumers is just getting started.
West Virginia University Professor of Family Medicine Mark Cucuzzella has partnered with Eastern Panhandle-area groups to help Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program recipients make their money go further at four local farmers markets.

"In West Virginia, not unlike many places in a country, there is food insecurity – meaning that your health outcomes and treatments are impacted by your ability to buy healthy foods," Cucuzzella said. 

"So, making more healthy foods available to more people is necessary to improve overall health."

The WV FresHealthy Bucks program allows EBT customers to swipe their card for however much they intend to spend at either the Shepherdstown, Charles Town, Morgans Grove or VA Medical Center farmers market, and that amount is doubled. The additional money, which is funded by WVU grants, as well as others, can then be used to purchase fruits and vegetables.

"Though the program has only been operational for about two months, it has already made a huge impact on the market," said Megan Webber, a market master for the Shepherdstown Farmers Market. 

"We have about five core customers who are here every week to use the program. That means that mom who comes in with three kids and $40 to spend on her EBT card can now have $80 to spend."

This program is just one of many that have been springing up all over the country in an effort to have farmers markets accept EBT cards, provide more fresh foods to SNAP recipients, support local farmers and benefit the local economy.

Kristina James, who operates Blueberry Hill Vegetables with her husband and his family, said she's happy to see this program get started in the Eastern Panhandle markets, as she has seen success with it in the Washington, D.C., area markets she attends.

"I think it's fabulous that those parents and their young children get to benefit, but we as farmers benefit as well," James said. "We have definitely seen an increase in sales; and that's just great for everyone. It's a wonderful program, and I think it should be everywhere."

Cucuzzella said the goal is to expand the program to more families, especially through the use of the mobile market.

"We're just now getting started, but it's taking off, and I think it's just going to get better and better," Cucuzzella said. "I think it's going to lead to some great things."

The WV FresHealthy Bucks program is a partnership between Eastern Area Health Education Center, WVU Medicine University Healthcare Physicians, Wholesome Wave and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Tomatoes Get Boost in Growth, Antioxidants From Nano-Sized Nutrients

Newswise, November 9, 2015 — With the world population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, engineers and scientists are looking for ways to meet the increasing demand for food without also increasing the strain on natural resources, such as water and energy an initiative known as the food-water-energy nexus.

​​Ramesh Raliya, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher, and Pratim Biswas, PhD, the Lucy & Stanley Lopata Professor and chair of the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering, both at the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis, are addressing this issue by using nanoparticles to boost the nutrient content and growth of tomato plants.

Taking a clue from their work with solar cells, the team found that by using zinc oxide and titanium dioxide nanoparticles, the tomato plants better absorbed light and minerals, and the fruit had higher antioxidant content.
"When a plant grows, it signals the soil that it needs nutrients," Biswas says.

"The nutrient it needs is not in a form that the plant can take right away, so it secretes enzymes, which react with the soil and trigger bacterial microbes to turn the nutrients into a form that the plant can use. We're trying to aid this pathway by adding nanoparticles."

Zinc is an essential nutrient for plants, helps other enzymes function properly and is an ingredient in conventional fertilizer. Titanium is not an essential nutrient for plants, Raliya says, but boosts light absorption by increasing chlorophyll content in the leaves and promotes photosynthesis, properties Biswas' lab discovered while creating solar cells.

The team used a very fine spray using novel aerosolization techniques to directly deposit the nanoparticles on the leaves of the plants for maximum uptake.

"We found that our aerosol technique resulted in much greater uptake of nutrients by the plant in comparison to application of the nanoparticles to soil," Raliya says.

"A plant can only uptake about 20 percent of the nutrients applied through soil, with the remainder either forming stable complexes with soil constituents or being washed away with water, causing runoff. In both of the latter cases, the nutrients are unavailable to plants."

Overall, plants treated with the nanoparticles via aerosol routes produced nearly 82 percent (by weight) more fruit than untreated plants. In addition, the tomatoes from treated plant showed an increase in lycopene, an antioxidant linked to reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and age-related eye disorders, of between 80 percent and 113 percent.

Previous studies by other researchers have shown that increasing the use of nanotechnology in agriculture in densely populated countries such as India and China has made an impact on reducing malnutrition and child mortality. These tomatoes will help address malnutrition, Raliya says, because they allow people to get more nutrients from tomatoes than those conventionally grown.

In the study, published online last month in the journal Metallomics, the team found that the nanoparticles in the plants and the tomatoes were well below the USDA limit and considerably lower than what is used in conventional fertilizer.

However, they still have to be cautious and select the best concentration of nanoparticles to use for maximum benefit, Biswas says.

Raliya and the rest of the team are now working to develop a new formulation of nanonutrients that includes all 17 elements required by plants.

"In 100 years, there will be more cities and less farmland, but we will need more food," Raliya says. "At the same time, water will be limited because of climate change. We need an efficient methodology and a controlled environment in which plants can grow."

Efforts Are Needed to Improve the Diets of African Americans with Uncontrolled Hypertension


• The homes of urban African Americans with uncontrolled hypertension were often lacking either foods or needed appliances required for meals consistent with the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
• While African Americans with uncontrolled hypertension often had discussions with their physicians about diet, few discussions were related to the DASH diet.
• Research that uncovered these dietary concerns will be presented at ASN Kidney Week 2015 November 3–8 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, CA.

Newswise, November 9, 2015— Many African Americans with uncontrolled hypertension do not have recommended food categories in their homes and are not having adequate discussions with their doctors about diet. The findings come from two studies presented at ASN Kidney Week 2015 November 3¬–8 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, CA.

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is recommended for the treatment of hypertension, especially among African Americans. To assess barriers to following the diet, Deidra Crews, MD, ScM, FASN (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine) and her colleagues conducted interviews and inspected the homes of 159 African Americans with uncontrolled hypertension residing in Baltimore, MD.
Among the major findings: 

• 14.5 % of patients had 5 of the DASH food categories in their homes (fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy, whole grains, and plant proteins).
• More than 80% had full-sized ovens and refrigerators to allow for DASH meal preparation, but low health literacy was associated with a lower likelihood of having these full-sized appliances.
• Persons with chronic kidney disease were less likely to have fresh fruits than those with normal kidney function.
• Younger patients and those with lower annual incomes were less likely to have whole grains in their homes.
• Younger persons also were less likely to have plant proteins.

"The homes of urban African Americans with risk factors for chronic kidney disease were often lacking either the foods or needed appliances for preparing DASH diet accordant meals,” said Dr. Crews. “Interventions to improve the dietary quality of this high-risk group should consider these factors.”

In a second study, Dr. Crews and her colleagues looked at the frequency of diet discussions among African Americans with uncontrolled hypertension, who are at increased risk for chronic kidney disease, and their primary care physicians.

The investigators audio-recorded 127 patients' routine visits with their primary care physicians at the first visit following study enrollment. Diet was discussed in 73% of visits, but only 12% of visits included discussion of the DASH diet, despite the DASH diet being shown to be particularly beneficial for African Americans with hypertension. 

Discussions about diet were more likely to occur when the visits were longer, were centered on patient priorities, and were attended by patients with higher incomes.
“Improvements in the content of diet discussions in the context of clinical care for African Americans at risk for chronic kidney disease may be needed, and could potentially lead to mitigation of racial disparities in kidney disease,” said Dr. Crews.

Increased Meat Consumption, Especially When Cooked at High Temperatures, Linked to Elevated Kidney Cancer Risk

MD Anderson study also finds individuals with certain genetic variations more vulnerable to dietary risk

Newswise, November 9, 2015 — Diets high in meat may lead to an increased risk of developing renal cell carcinoma (RCC) through intake of carcinogenic compounds created by certain cooking techniques, such as barbecuing and pan-frying. As part of a new study from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, published online this week in the journal CANCER, researchers also discovered that individuals with specific genetic mutations are more susceptible to the harmful compounds created when cooking at high temperatures.

 Renal cell carcinoma, the most common form of kidney cancer, is expected to be diagnosed in over 60,000 new patients this year and claim approximately 14,000 lives, according to the American Cancer Society. The incidence of RCC has been rising for several decades, and many suggest that a Western diet is partially, to blame.

 One of the proposed culprits of a Western diet is higher-than-average meat consumption, which has been linked to increased cancer risk. However, it has not always been clear why eating more meat elevates cancer risk, explained Stephanie Melkonian, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow, Epidemiology and lead author of the study.

A possible mechanism could be ingestion of meat-cooking mutagens, harmful compounds created when the meat is cooked in certain way. Cooking meat at high temperatures or over an open flame, such as when barbecuing or pan-frying, is known to result in the formation of carcinogens, including 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenyl-imidazo(4,5-b) pyridine (PhIP) and amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo(4,5-f) quinoxaline (MeIQx).

The kidney is a biochemically active organ responsible for filtering many harmful toxins from the body, and therefore it make sense to investigate the effects of dietary intake, including carcinogens, on kidney cancer risk, said Melkonian.

To better characterize factors contributing to kidney cancer risk, the researchers surveyed the eating patterns and collected genetic information from 659 MD Anderson patients newly diagnosed with RCC and 699 healthy subjects recruited from the community. Based on survey responses, the researchers estimated meat consumption and exposure to meat-cooking mutagens with the help of a National Cancer Institute database.

“We found elevated RCC risk associated with both meat intake and meat-cooking mutagens, suggesting independent effect of meat-cooking mutagens on RCC risk,” said Xifeng Wu, M.D., Ph.D, professor, Epidemiology and senior author of the study.

Specifically, the results show that kidney cancer patients consumed more red and white meat compared to healthy individuals. Additionally, the researchers identified a 54 percent increased risk associated with PhIP intake and a nearly twofold increase associated with MeIQx intake. This is the first study to identify an association between kidney cancer risk and dietary MeIQx.

The results suggest that cooking method is an important factor contributing to the elevated RCC risk associated with consuming more meat, as both red and white meat resulted in increased risk, explained Wu.

This study was also the first to investigate connections between genetic risk factors and intake of meat-cooking mutagens for RCC. “By analyzing genes known to be associated with RCC risk, we found that high intake of these carcinogens may be particularly meaningful for a certain subgroup of the population,” said Melkonian.

Individuals with variations in the gene, ITPR2, were more vulnerable to the effects of consuming PhIP. As this gene has previously been associated with kidney cancer and obesity risk, the results suggest this association may be partially explained by exposure to meat-cooking mutagens.

Future experiments will seek to clarify the mechanisms linking mutagen intake and genetic susceptibility.

The researchers cannot make specific recommendations regarding acceptable amounts of meat intake or exposure to meat-cooking mutagens, based on the current study. Exposures and consumption were analyzed on a relative, rather than absolute scale, and future studies will be needed to determine appropriate dietary intake.

“Our findings support reducing consumption of meat, especially meat cooked at high temperatures or over an open flame as a public health intervention to reduce RCC risk and burden,” said Wu.

The researchers do not suggest that individuals should remove meats completely from their diets, but rather consume it in moderation, as part of a well-balanced diet, complete with fruits and vegetables. When grilling or pan-frying meat, try to avoid charring it as much as possible, suggest the researchers.

In addition to Melkonian and Wu, other authors on the all MD Anderson study include: Carrie R. Daniel, Ph.D., and Yuanqing Ye, Ph.D., both of Epidemiology; Nizar M. Tannir, M.D., Genitourinary Medical Oncology; and Jose A. Karam, M.D., Surena F. Matin, M.D., and Christopher G. Wood, M.D., all of Urology.

The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health (R01 CA170298), Center for Translational and Public Health Genomics, Duncan Family Institute for Cancer Prevention, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the NCI R25T Postdoctoral Fellowship in Cancer Prevention.

Monday, November 2, 2015

‘Everything in Moderation’ Diet Advice May Lead to Poor Metabolic Health

 Newswise, November 2, 2015– Diet diversity, as defined by less similarity among the foods people eat, may be linked to lower diet quality and worse metabolic health, according to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. The study was published today in PLOS ONE.

“‘Eat everything in moderation’ has been a long-standing dietary recommendation, but without much empiric supporting evidence in populations.

“We wanted to characterize new metrics of diet diversity and evaluate their association with metabolic health,” said Marcia C. de Oliveira Otto, Ph.D., first author and assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health.

Using data from 6,814 participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, a study of whites, blacks, Hispanic-Americans and Chinese-Americans in the United States, the authors measured diet diversity through different measures.

These included the total count (number of different foods eaten in a week), evenness (the distribution of calories across different foods consumed), and dissimilarity (the differences in food attributes relevant to metabolic health, such as fiber, sodium or trans-fat content).

Researchers evaluated how diet diversity was associated with change in waist circumference five years after the beginning of the study and with onset of Type 2 diabetes 10 years later. Waist circumference is an important indicator of central fat and metabolic health.

When evaluating both food count and evenness, no associations were seen with either increase in waist circumference or incidence of diabetes. In other words, more diversity in the diet was not linked to better outcomes.

Participants who had the greatest food dissimilarity actually experienced more central weight gain, with a 120 percent greater increase in waist circumference than participants with the lowest food dissimilarity.

To compare with the results seen for diet diversity, the researchers also examined how diet quality relates to metabolic health. Diet quality was measured using established scores such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) score and the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) score. At five years, diet quality was not associated with change in waist circumference.

At ten years, higher diet quality was associated with about a 25 percent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

“An unexpected finding was that participants with greater diversity in their diets, as measured by dissimilarity, actually had worse diet quality. They were eating less healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and more unhealthy foods, such as processed meats, desserts and soda,” said Otto.

“This may help explain the relationship between greater food dissimilarity and increased waist circumference.”
Dietary diversity as measured by food count and evenness was also associated with higher intakes of both healthy and unhealthy foods.

“Americans with the healthiest diets actually eat a relatively small range of healthy foods,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., senior author and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston.

“These results suggest that in modern diets, eating ‘everything in moderation’ is actually worse than eating a smaller number of healthy foods.”

Nikhil S. Padhye, Ph.D., from UTHeath School of Nursing, was a coauthor on the study. Funding came from a research supplement grant awarded to Otto by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, as part of a larger research grant number R01HL085710, whose principal investigator is the senior author Mozaffarian.

Diet Lacking Soluble Fiber Promotes Weight Gain, Mouse Study Suggests

Study highlights importance of gut microbiome in maintaining intestinal and metabolic health

Newswise, November 2, 2015— Bethesda, Md. (October 30, 2015)—Eating too much high-fat, high-calorie food is considered the primary cause of obesity and obesity-related disease, including diabetes.

While the excess calories consumed are a direct cause of the fat accumulation, scientists suspect that low-grade inflammation due to an altered gut microbiome may also be involved.

A new study in the American Journal of Physiology—Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology finds in mice that a diet missing soluble fiber promotes inflammation in the intestines and poor gut health, leading to weight gain. Moreover, incorporating soluble fiber back into the diet can restore gut health.

The gut microbiota is a community of bacteria and other microorganisms that live in the intestines. Microbiota also exists elsewhere on the body, including the skin and mouth.

The gut microbiota has an important role in maintaining intestinal health and function, including helping the body digest food, producing vitamins and fighting foreign microorganisms.

Changes to the gut microbiota have been linked to development of gastrointestinal diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, and metabolic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and obesity.

A research team at Georgia State University examined the effects of diets varying in amounts of soluble and insoluble fibers, protein and fat on the structure of the intestines, fat accumulation and weight gain in mice. Key observations from this study are:

• Mice on a diet lacking soluble fiber gained weight and had more fat compared with mice on a diet that included soluble fiber. The intestines of mice on the soluble fiber-deficient diet were also shorter and had thinner walls. These structural changes were observed as soon as two days after starting the diet.
• Introducing soluble fiber into the diet restored gut structure. Supplementing with soluble fiber inulin restored the intestinal structure in mice on the soluble fiber-deficient diet. Mice that received cellulose, an insoluble fiber, however, did not show improvements. Moreover, in mice fed a high-fat diet, switching the type of fiber from insoluble to soluble protected the mice from the fat accumulation and intestinal wasting that occurs with excess fat consumption. The data suggest a difference in health benefits between soluble and insoluble dietary fibers, the researchers stated.
• Improvements in gut structure with soluble fiber were due to changes in the gut microbiota and the gut microbiota’s production of molecules called short chain fatty acids, which are used as fuel by intestinal cells and have anti-inflammatory properties. Mice consuming a soluble fiber-deficient diet had lower levels of short chain fatty acids, and introducing soluble fiber into their diet boosted their levels. Supplementing the soluble fiber-deficient diet with short chain fatty acids had similar effects as inulin supplementation, although not to the same extent. Inulin supplementation increased the size of the intestines in normal mice but not in mice with no gut microbiota, supporting that the gut microbiota is involved in the intestinal health effects of soluble fiber. According to the researchers, the data support that soluble fiber promotes gut health by encouraging the gut microbiota to produce short chain fatty acids.

“If our observations were to prove applicable to humans, it would suggest that encouraging consumption of foods with high soluble fiber content may be a means to combat the epidemic of metabolic disease. Moreover, addition of inulin and perhaps other soluble fibers to processed foods, including calorically rich obesogenic foods, may be a means to ameliorate their detrimental effects,” the researchers stated.

The article “Lack of soluble fiber drives diet-induced adiposity in mice” is published in the American Journal of Physiology—Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology. It is highlighted as one of this month’s “best of the best” as part of the American Physiological Society’s APSselect program. Read all of this month’s selected research articles on the APSselect site.

About the American Physiological Society
Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. Established in 1887, the American Physiological Society (APS) was the first U.S. society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 10,000 members and publishes 15 peer-reviewed journals with a worldwide readership