Thursday, June 30, 2016

Arrows on Grocery Floors Increased the Proportion of Produce Spending

Arrows on store floor increase produce purchases
Newswise, June 30, 2016— Philadelphia, PA, June 30, 2016 – Fruit and vegetable availability is often assumed to be a purchase barrier, yet fruit and vegetable availability does not necessarily result in frequent purchases.

 Rather, in-store marketing of less-healthy foods may be a major influencing factor in consumer spending habits regarding fruits and vegetables.

A new study, in which in-store marketing focused attention on fruits and vegetables, resulted in an increased proportion of produce purchases keeping overall food spending the same.

To study the effect of in-store marketing, researchers used a shopper marketing nutrition intervention and placed 10 large (6 by 3 feet) green arrows on the floor of a grocery.

The arrows were placed in highly visible areas around the perimeter of the store and pointed to the produce section. On the arrows were sayings such as, “Follow green arrow for health,” and included a graphical representation of fruits and vegetables and emoticons to facilitate social approval.

Two groceries were included in this pilot study, including a control grocery of the same chain with similar demographics and poverty levels with no arrows.

Weekly sales reports detailing daily grocery department sales were generated by the retailer for the 14-day trial.

During this period, the intervention store experienced a significant increase in the proportion of spending on produce compared with other food. Despite the increase in spending on fruits and vegetables at the intervention store, however, the total food spending per customer did not change significantly between the two stores

“Efforts to move shoppers to purchase healthier foods while not increasing budgets could trigger a public health shift,” lead author Collin Payne, PhD, New Mexico State University, said.

“And our intervention showed that the produce spending proportion increase is possible without increasing overall spending per shopper transaction.”

The results of the initial trial were duplicated over a longer period, at two additional stores with different demographics and poverty levels. This added validity to the initial results by extending the intervention to new groups of shoppers.

However, Dr. Payne and his coinvestigators recommend that future studies examine how long this intervention is likely to have an effect.

Extensive Scientific Review Finds Benefits of Drinking Coffee Outweigh Risks

Coffee benefits outweigh risks
Newswise, June 30, 2016– Coffee is enjoyed by millions of people every day and the ‘coffee experience’ has become a staple of our modern life and culture.

While the current body of research related to the effects of coffee consumption on human health has been contradictory, a study in the June issue of Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, which is published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), found that the potential benefits of moderate coffee drinking outweigh the risks in adult consumers for the majority of major health outcomes considered.

Researchers at Ulster University systematically reviewed 1,277 studies from 1970 to-date on coffee’s effect on human health and found the general scientific consensus is that regular, moderate coffee drinking (defined as 3-4 cups per day) essentially has a neutral effect on health, or can be mildly beneficial.

The review was used to create an exhaustive list of the potential health benefits and risks of coffee consumption on the following health outcomes:
- Total Mortality
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Cancer
- Metabolic Health
- Neurological Disorders
- Gastrointestinal Conditions
- Other Miscellaneous Health Outcomes

The authors noted causality of risks and benefits cannot be established for either with the research currently available as they are largely based on observational data. Further research is needed to quantify the risk-benefit balance for coffee consumption, as well as identify which of coffee’s many active ingredients, or indeed the combination of such, that could be inducing these health benefits.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Vegetables Prompt Latest Ingredient-Driven Foodborne Illness Outbreak

 Contamination poses challenge for investigators and regulators

Newswise, June 24, 2016 — An ongoing incident of Listeria contamination linked to frozen vegetables is causing illnesses across state and national lines. At least 350 products use the vegetables, which are distributed to retailers in all 50 states and four Canadian provinces.

Vegetables Prompte Foodborne Illness OutbreakIngredient-driven outbreaks make for complex investigations. When a single contaminated ingredient is included in hundreds or even thousands of products, the potential for illness increases exponentially.

 It becomes extremely challenging to identify the contaminated food. Other ingredient-driven outbreaks that have occurred in recent years include one linked to pine nuts that were used in pesto, salads, and baked goods, and another associated with sunflower seeds found in a variety of trail mixes.

In fact, an ingredient-driven outbreak powered enactment of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the first major overhaul of the U.S. food system in 70 years.

 In 2009, Salmonella-contaminated peanut butter and peanut products sickened more than 700 people and led to nine deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 3,000 peanut products—including crackers, cookies, and granola bars produced by a variety of companies—may have been made with the contaminated ingredients produced by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA).

Illnesses spread throughout the country as investigators raced to identify the source of contamination. It took months to pinpoint the tainted products, and to then track down the number of items, retailers, and distributors involved. Meanwhile, people kept getting sick.

The PCA outbreak underscored the importance of a prevention-based approach to foodborne contamination, codified in FSMA. The law requires food manufacturers to take proactive steps to prevent food safety problems. Companies that supply food ingredients must adhere to adequate food safety practices.

Manufacturers must develop safety plans for their processing facilities, which identify possible points of contamination and steps to mitigate them, and monitor the effectiveness of those efforts. When problems arise, food processors must work diligently to correct them.

The investigation into contaminated frozen vegetables is ongoing, with both manufacturers and regulators working to protect consumers from further illnesses. The new prevention-based requirements for food-processing facilities will begin to go into effect in September 2016.

Improvement Seen in U.S. Diet

Americans' diet improvesNewswise, June 24, 2016— In nationally representative surveys conducted between 1999 and 2012, several improvements in self-reported dietary habits were identified, such as increased consumption of whole grains, with additional findings suggesting persistent or worsening disparities based on race/ethnicity and education and income level, according to a study appearing in the June 21 issue of JAMA.

Suboptimal diet is among the leading causes of poor health, particularly obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and diet-related cancers. In the United States, dietary factors are estimated to account for more than 650,000 deaths per year and 14 percent of all disability-adjusted life-years lost. 

Understanding trends in dietary habits is crucial to inform priorities and policies to improve diets and reduce diet-related illness. 

Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Boston, and colleagues examined trends in overall diet quality and multiple dietary components related to major diseases using 24-hour dietary recalls in nationally representative samples that included 33,932 U.S. adults age 20 years or older from 7 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) cycles (1999-2012). 

As a summary indicator, a diet score was constructed based on the American Heart Association (AHA) 2020 Strategic Impact Goals for diet.

The researchers found that many aspects of the U.S. diet improved, including increased consumption of whole grains, nuts or seeds, a slight increase in fish and shellfish and decreased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. 

Other dietary trends included increased consumption of whole fruit and decreased consumption of 100 percent fruit juice. No significant trend was observed for other diet score components, including total fruits and vegetables, processed meat, saturated fat, or sodium. 

The estimated percentage of U.S. adults with poor diets declined from 56 percent to 46 percent. The percentage with ideal diets increased but remained low (0.7 percent to 1.5 percent).

Disparities in diet quality were observed by race/ethnicity, education, and income level; for example, the estimated percentage of non-Hispanic white adults with a poor diet significantly declined (54 percent to 43 percent), whereas similar improvements were not observed for non-Hispanic black or Mexican American adults. There was little evidence of reductions in these disparities and some evidence of worsening by income level.

“These findings may inform discussions on emerging successes, areas for greater attention, and corresponding opportunities to improve the diets of individuals living in the United States,” the authors write.

Editor’s Note: This work was supported by a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, etc.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Copper Is Key in Burning Fat

Role of Dietary Copper in Controlling obesitiy
Berkeley scientist says results could provide new target for obesity research

Newswise, June 17, 2016 — A new study is further burnishing copper’s reputation as an essential nutrient for human physiology. A research team led by a scientist at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and at the University of California, Berkeley, has found that copper plays a key role in metabolizing fat.

Long prized as a malleable, conductive metal used in cookware, electronics, jewelry and plumbing, copper has been gaining increasing attention over the past decade for its role in certain biological functions. It has been known that copper is needed to form red blood cells, absorb iron, develop connective tissue and support the immune system.

The new findings, to appear in the July print issue of Nature Chemical Biology but published online today, establishes for the first time copper’s role in fat metabolism.

The team of researchers was led by Chris Chang, a faculty scientist at Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division, a UC Berkeley professor of chemistry and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Co-lead authors of the study are Lakshmi Krishnamoorthy and Joseph Cotruvo Jr, both UC Berkeley postdoctoral researchers in chemistry with affiliations at Berkeley Lab.

“We find that copper is essential for breaking down fat cells so that they can be used for energy,” said Chang. “It acts as a regulator. The more copper there is, the more the fat is broken down. We think it would be worthwhile to study whether a deficiency in this nutrient could be linked to obesity and obesity-related diseases.”

Dietary copper

Chang said that copper could potentially play a role in restoring a natural way to burn fat. The nutrient is plentiful in foods such as oysters and other shellfish, leafy greens, mushrooms, seeds, nuts and beans.

According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, an adult’s estimated average dietary requirement for copper is about 700 micrograms per day.

“Copper is not something the body can make, so we need to get it through our diet,” said Chang. “The typical American diet, however, doesn’t include many green leafy vegetables. Asian diets, for example, have more foods rich in copper.”

But Chang cautions against ingesting copper supplements as a result of these study results. Too much copper can lead to imbalances with other essential minerals, including zinc.

Copper as a ‘brake on a brake’

The researchers made the copper-fat link using mice with a genetic mutation that causes the accumulation of copper in the liver. Notably, these mice have larger than average deposits of fat compared with normal mice.

The inherited condition, known as Wilson’s disease, also occurs in humans and is potentially fatal if left untreated.

Analysis of the mice with Wilson’s disease revealed that the abnormal buildup of copper was accompanied by lower than normal lipid levels in the liver compared with control groups of mice. The researchers also found that the white adipose tissue, or white fat, of the mice with Wilson’s disease had lower levels of copper compared with the control mice and correspondingly higher levels of fat deposits.

They then treated the Wilson’s disease mice with isoproterenol, a beta agonist known to induce lipolysis, the breakdown of fat into fatty acids, through the cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) signaling pathway. They noted that the mice with Wilson’s disease exhibited less fat-breakdown activity compared with control mice.

The results prompted the researchers to conduct cell culture analyses to clarify the mechanism by which copper influences lipolysis. The researchers used inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy (ICP-MS) equipment at Berkeley Lab to measure levels of copper in fat tissue.

They found that copper binds to phosphodiesterase 3, or PDE3, an enzyme that binds to cAMP, halting cAMP’s ability to facilitate the breakdown of fat.

“When copper binds phosphodiesterase, it’s like a brake on a brake,” said Chang. “That’s why copper has a positive correlation with lipolysis.”

Hints from cows

The connection between copper and fat metabolism is not altogether surprising. The researchers actually found hints of the link in the field of animal husbandry.

“It had been noted in cattle that levels of copper in the feed would affect how fatty the meat was,” said Chang. “This effect on fat deposits in animals was in the agricultural literature, but it hadn’t been clear what the biochemical mechanisms were linking copper and fat.”

The new work builds upon prior research from Chang’s lab on the roles of copper and other metals in neuroscience. In support of President Barack Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, Berkeley Lab provided Chang seed funding in 2013 through the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program. Chang’s work continued through the BRAIN Tri-Institutional Partnership, an alliance with Berkeley Lab, UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco.

Of the copper in human bodies, there are particularly high concentrations found in the brain. Recent studies, including those led by Chang, have found that copper helps brain cells communicate with each other by acting as a brake when it is time for neural signals to stop.

While Chang’s initial focus was on the role of copper in neural communications, he branched out to investigations of metals in fat metabolism and other biological pathways. This latest work was primarily funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Another Reason for Wine Lovers to Toast Resveratrol

Resveratrol health benefits in Red Wine
Resveratrol found in red wine could help counteract the negative impact of high fat/high sugar diets

Newswise, June 1, 2016 — Red wine lovers have a new reason to celebrate. Researchers have found a new health benefit of resveratrol, which occurs naturally in blueberries, raspberries, mulberries, grape skins and consequently in red wine.

While studying the effects of resveratrol in the diet of rhesus monkeys, Dr. J.P. Hyatt, an associate professor at Georgetown University, and his team of researchers hypothesized that a resveratrol supplement would counteract the negative impact of a high fat/high sugar diet on the hind leg muscles.

In previous animal studies, resveratrol has already shown to increase the life span of mice and slow the onset of diabetes. In one study, it mirrored the positive effects of aerobic exercise in mice, which were fed a high fat/high sugar diet.

For Dr. Hyatt's current study, which was published in the open access journal Frontiers in Physiology, a control group of rhesus monkeys was fed a healthy diet and another group was fed a high fat/high sugar diet, half of which also received a resveratrol supplement and half of which did not.

The researchers wanted to know how different parts of the body responded to the benefits of resveratrol - specifically the muscles in the back of the leg.

Three types of muscles were examined: a "slow" muscle, a "fast" muscle and a "mixed" muscle. The study showed that each muscle responded differently to the diet and to the addition of resveratrol.

The soleus muscle, a large muscle spanning from the knee to the heel, is considered a "slow" muscle used extensively in standing and walking.

Of the three lower hind leg muscles analyzed for this study, the soleus was the most effected by the high fat/high sugar diet and also most effected by the resveratrol supplements; this may be partially due to the fact that, on a daily basis, it is used much more than the other two muscles.

In the soleus muscle, myosin, a protein which helps muscles contract, and determines its slow or fast properties, shifted from more slow to more fast with a high fat/ high sugar diet. The addition of resveratrol to the diet counteracted this shift.

The plantaris muscle, a 5-10 cm long muscle along the back of the calf, did not have a negative response to the high fat/high sugar diet, but it did have a positive response to the addition of resveratrol, with a fast to slow myosin shift. The third muscle was not affected by the diet or addition of resveratrol.

Hyatt said it would be reasonable to expect other slow muscles to respond similarly to the soleus muscle when exposed to a high fat/high sugar diet and resveratrol.

"The maintenance or addition of slow characteristics in soleus and plantaris muscles, respectively, implies that these muscles are far more fatigue resistant than those without resveratrol.

Skeletal muscles that are phenotypically slower can sustain longer periods of activity and could contribute to improved physical activity, mobility, or stability, especially in elderly individuals," he said, when asked if this study could be applied to humans.

While these results are encouraging, and there might be a temptation to continue eating a high fat/high sugar diet and simply add a glass of red wine or a cup of fruit to one's daily consumption, the researchers stress the importance of a healthy diet cannot be overemphasized.

But for now there's one more reason to have a glass of red wine.

Nutrition Labels May Lead to Buying More Raw Seafood

Nutritional Labels on Raw SeafoodNewswise —June 1, 2016 --- If grocers put nutrition labels on packages of raw fish -- a good nutrient source for cardiovascular health -- parents may be more likely to buy the fish, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

Xiang Bi, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food and resource economics, worked with her colleagues to survey 1,000 people online to gauge consumer reactions to raw fish with nutrition labels.

Until 2012, federal rules only required nutrition labels on processed and commercial foods. That year, the federal government started requiring raw meat and poultry products to carry nutrition information on their labels.

But those rules do not apply to raw fish.

In the new study, researchers focused on three types of information: nutrition, health and a combination of nutrition and health.

By putting the same nutrition label on raw seafood packages as consumers can find on raw packages of meat, consumers are more willing to buy the raw seafood, the study found. This finding may interest the seafood industry, grocers and policy makers, the study says.

It also has value for parents and consumers in general, UF/IFAS researchers say.

Bi targeted the web survey to parents who not only have children living at home but who cook meals for their kids. “We focused on parents with children because their choices may very well influence the choices of the future generation,” she said.

Before they did the online consumer survey, Bi and her team of professor Lisa House and associate professor Zhifeng Gao, both of whom are also faculty with the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department, learned a bit about seafood purchasing habits from conducting focus groups.

“Though respondents understand the nutritional benefits of seafood and would choose seafood for health and nutritional benefits, some of them still deep-fry their seafood,” Bi said.

Thus, how you cook seafood remains paramount to its nutrition value.
“Light seafood consumers, particularly, do not want to prepare seafood at home.”

Among many questions in the online survey, researchers asked participants why they choose seafood for a family meal. Eighty percent cited taste as the most important reason, followed by nutrition, variety, price, fat content, calories and preparation time.

In addition to focusing on parents, the researchers point out the health benefits of fish, specifically their Omega-3 fatty acids that help the heart.

The American Heart Association recommends people of all ages consume fish at least twice a week. Omega-3 fatty acids also help children since they help in brain, nerve and eye development, the study says.

Despite these benefits, per-capita consumption of seafood in the United States is about 4.8 ounces per week, which is below the minimum recommendation of 7 ounces per week by the heart association.

Stave Off Cognitive Decline with Seafood

Seafood staves off cognitive decline
Study finds that eating seafood once a week may slow memory loss

Newswise, June 1, 2016 Eating a meal of seafood or other foods containing omega-3 fatty acids at least once a week may protect against age-related memory loss and thinking problems in older people, according to a team of researchers at Rush University Medical Center and Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Their research findings were published in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging and the Judith Zwartz Foundation.

The age-related memory loss and thinking problems of participants in the study who reported eating seafood less than once a week declined more rapidly compared to those who ate at least one seafood meal per week.

“This study helps show that while cognitive abilities naturally decline as part of the normal aging process, there is something that we can do to mitigate this process,” says Martha Clare Morris, ScD, a Rush nutritional epidemiologist and senior author of the paper.

Four types of seafood, five types of brain function

The researchers followed 915 people with a mean age of 81.4 years for an average of five years. At study enrollment, none had signs of dementia.

The participants were recruited from people already taking part in the Rush Memory and Aging Project, a study of residents of more than 40 retirement communities and senior public housing units across northern Illinois, plus older adults identified through church groups and social service agencies.

During the course of the study, each person received annual, standardized testing for cognitive ability in five areas — episodic memory, working memory, semantic memory, visuospatial ability and perceptual speed.

The study group also completed annual food frequency questionnaires, allowing the researchers to compare participants’ reported seafood intake with changes in their cognitive abilities as measured by the tests.

The questionnaires included four types of seafood: tuna sandwiches; fish sticks, fish cakes and fish sandwiches; fresh fish as a main dish; and shrimp, lobster and crab.

The participants were divided into two groups: those who ate at least one of those seafood meals per week and those who ate less than one of those seafood meals per week.

Participants in the higher seafood consumption group ate an average of two seafood meals per week. Those in the lower group ate an average of 0.5 meals per week.

Making closer associations

Seafood is the direct nutrient source of a type of omega-3 fatty acid (docosahexaenoic acid) that is the main structural component of the brain.

While epidemiologic studies have shown the importance of seafood and omega-3 fatty acids in preventing dementia, few prior studies have examined their associations with specific types of cognitive ability.

In the new Neurology article, the researchers report associations between seafood consumption and two of the areas of cognitive ability that they tested.

People who ate more seafood had reduced rates of decline in the semantic memory, which is memory of verbal information. They also had slower rates of decline in a test of perceptual speed, or the ability to quickly compare letters, objects and patterns.

The study did not find a significant difference in the rate of decline in episodic memory (recollection of personal experiences), working memory (short-term memory used in mental function in the immediate present) and visuospatial ability (comprehension of relationships between objects).

The results were the same after researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect memory and thinking skills, such as education, physical activity, smoking and participating in mentally stimulating activities.

Further, the protective association of seafood was even stronger among individuals with a common genotype (APOE-ε4) that increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The APOE is a gene involved in cholesterol transport to neurons. About 20 percent of the population carries the APOE-ε4 gene, although not everyone who has the gene will develop Alzheimer’s disease.