All Posts tagged foods

Most Brits are “replete’ in iron

A UK report has found most Brits gain adequate levels of iron, but warned that the elderly, small children, girls, some women and the poor may be susceptible to deficiencies and should consider iron supplementation among other measures. “While most people in the UK are iron replete, health professionals need to be alert to increased risk of iron deficiency anaemia in toddlers, girls and women of reproductive age (particularly those from low income groups) and some adults aged over 65 years,” wrote the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA).

“Those with symptoms suggesting iron deficiency anaemia should receive appropriate clinical assessment and advice, including dietary advice on how to increase their iron intakes and to consider use of iron supplements if required.” The report updated COMA’s 1998 finding that high levels of red meat consumption were linked to colorectal cancer and also investigated the effects of reduced iron-rich red meat consumption. COMA concluded that a, “healthy balanced diet, which includes a variety of foods containing iron” is the best way to attain, “adequate iron status”.

“Such an approach is more important than consuming iron-rich foods at the same time as foods/drinks that enhance iron absorption (e.g., fruit juice, meat) or not consuming iron rich foods with those that inhibit iron absorption (e.g., tea, coffee, milk),” the committee said.

On the issue or red meat consumption COMA found that reduced red meat consumption levels would not cause widespread iron deficiencies. “Adults with relatively high intakes of red and processed meat (around 90 g/day or more) should consider reducing their intakes. A reduction to the UK population average for adult consumers (70 g/day cooked weight) would have little impact on the proportion of the adult population with low iron intakes.”

Current UK guidelines state that 3.2 oz (90g) is a healthy daily portion of red meat, and that only those who eat more than 5oz (140g) need to cut back. However some research has challenged these levels. A 2005 European study found those who regularly eat more than 5.6oz (160g) of red meat daily increase their risk of contracting bowel cancer by a third. In 2007, the World Cancer Research Fund report in 2007 concluded that there was a link between red meat consumption and an increased risk of bowel cancer.

The COMA report follows research from the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) which contradicts these recommendations

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Craving for alcohol linked to obesity

Addiction researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that a risk for alcoholism also may put individuals at risk for obesity. The researchers noted that the association between a family history of alcoholism and obesity risk has become more pronounced in recent years. Both men and women with such a family history were more likely to be obese in 2002 than members of that same high-risk group had been in 1992. “In addiction research, we often look at what we call cross-heritability, which addresses the question of whether the predisposition to one condition also might contribute to other conditions,” says first author Richard A. Grucza, PhD. “For example, alcoholism and drug abuse are cross-heritable. This new study demonstrates a cross-heritability between alcoholism and obesity, but it also says — and this is very important — that some of the risks must be a function of the environment. The environment is what changed between the 1990s and the 2000s. It wasn’t people’s genes.”

Obesity in the United States has doubled in recent decades from 15 percent of the population in the late 1970s to 33 percent in 2004. Obese people – those with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more – have an elevated risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.

Reporting in the Archives of General Psychiatry, Grucza and his team say individuals with a family history of alcoholism, particularly women, have an elevated obesity risk. In addition, that risk seems to be growing. He speculates that may result from changes in the food we eat and the availability of more foods that interact with the same brain areas as addictive drugs. “Much of what we eat nowadays contains more calories than the food we ate in the 1970s and 1980s, but it also contains the sorts of calories — particularly a combination of sugar, salt and fat — that appeal to what are commonly called the reward centers in the brain,” says Grucza, an assistant professor of psychiatry. “Alcohol and drugs affect those same parts of the brain, and our thinking was that because the same brain structures are being stimulated, overconsumption of those foods might be greater in people with a predisposition to addiction.”

Grucza hypothesized that as Americans consumed more high-calorie, hyper-palatable foods, those with a genetic risk for addiction would face an elevated risk from because of the effects of those foods on the reward centers in the brain. His team analyzed data from two large alcoholism surveys from the last two decades. The National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey was conducted in 1991 and 1992. The National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions was conducted in 2001 and 2002. Almost 80,000 people took part in the two surveys.

“We looked particularly at family history of alcoholism as a marker of risk,” Grucza explains. “And we found that in 2001 and 2002, women with that history were 49 percent more likely to be obese than those without a family history of alcoholism. We also noticed a relationship in men, but it was not as striking in men as in women.” Grucza says a possible explanation for obesity in those with a family history of alcoholism is that some individuals may substitute one addiction for another. After seeing a close relative deal with alcohol problems, a person may shy away from drinking, but high-calorie, hyper-palatable foods also can stimulate the reward centers in their brains and give them effects similar to what they might experience from alcohol.

“Ironically, people with alcoholism tend not to be obese,” Grucza says. “They tend to be malnourished, or at least under-nourished because many replace their food intake with alcohol. One might think that the excess calories associated with alcohol consumption could, in theory, contribute to obesity, but that’s not what we saw in these individuals.” Grucza says other variables, from smoking, to alcohol intake, to demographic factors like age and education levels don’t seem to explain the association between alcoholism risk and obesity. “It really does appear to be a change in the environment,” he says. “I would speculate, although I can’t really prove this, that a change in the food environment brought this association about. There is a whole slew of literature out there suggesting these hyper-palatable foods appeal to people with addictive tendencies, and I would guess that’s what we’re seeing in our study.” The results, he says, suggest there should be more cross-talk between alcohol and addiction researchers and those who study obesity. He says there may be some people for whom treating one of those disorders also might aid the other.

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Fructose Intolerance

Researchers have a new theory on why some kids get unexplained tummy aches.

In some people, the small intestine is unable to efficiently break down fructose (and sometimes other forms of sugar). This problem is sometimes referred to as fructose intolerance. The undigested fructose passes into the large intestine, where it is broken down by bacteria. A by-product of this process is the creation of carbon dioxide and hydrogen. These two gases build up in the intestine, causing bloating, gas, pain and diarrhea. In some cases, the problem can affect absorption of important nutrients, like calcium and iron.

Researchers estimate about 33 percent of Americans have some level of sensitivity to sugar, most commonly to fructose, but the symptoms are often vague. Some people with fructose intolerance can eat small amounts of the sugar and not have any problems, making diagnosis even trickier.

Daniel Lustig, M.D., Pediatric Gastroenterologist at Mary Bridge Children’s Health Center in Tacoma, WA, says patients with chronic digestive problems should have a physician’s evaluation to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms, like Celiac disease or Crohn’s disease. Once those conditions have been ruled out, he recommends a diagnostic tool called the breath hydrogen test.

A patient is given a dose of fructose. Then, periodically, he/she breathes into an air collection bag. The gases from the bag are retrieved and analyzed for the presence of hydrogen (one of the gases given off when fructose is broken down in the large intestine). Patients whose hydrogen levels exceed 20 points beyond a baseline reading are likely to be fructose intolerant.

Lustig explains the main treatment of fructose intolerance is avoidance of foods containing fructose. That includes fruits, fruit juices, sodas and processed foods and drinks with high fructose corn syrup. Since fructose is in so many foods, it can be tricky to find and hard to avoid.

Lustig recently performed a study to look at possible fructose intolerance in 245 children and adolescents (ages 2 to 18) with unexplained chronic abdominal pain, gas or bloating. The breath hydrogen test found that nearly 54 percent of the participants tested positive for fructose intolerance. Lustig says the problem appeared to be especially high among teen girls.

Those who were judged to be fructose intolerant were given advice on using a low-fructose diet. The investigators found that nearly 68 percent of those who followed the recommended diet had an improvement or resolution in their symptoms.

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Simple steps to prevent cancer

About a third of some of the most common forms of cancer could be prevented through healthy diet, physical fitness, and limiting alcohol intake, the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund say in a new report. About 7.6 million people die from cancer every year worldwide, and 12.7 million new cases are diagnosed. According to the Union for International Cancer Control, a third of cancer cases could be cured through early diagnosis and treatment and 30% to 40% could be prevented. About 340,000 cases of cancer could be prevented annually in the U.S. if more people started eating a varied and healthy diet, started a regimen of physical activity, limited alcohol intake, and maintained a healthy weight, the new report says.

“Physical activity is recommended for people of all ages as a means to reduce risks for certain types of cancers and other non-communicable diseases,” says Tim Armstrong, MD, of the World Health Organization, says in a news release. “In order to improve their health and prevent several diseases, adults should do at least 150 minutes moderate physical activity throughout the week. This can be achieved by simply walking 30 minutes five times per week or by cycling to work daily.”

To reduce cancer risk, people also should quit smoking, avoid excessive sun exposure, and protect themselves against cancer-causing infections.

Tim Byers, MD, MPH, of the Colorado School of Public Health, says scientists urge Americans “to make the simple lifestyle changes of eating healthy food, getting regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight to reduce cancer risk.” The World Cancer Declaration outlines 11 targets it says could be achieved by 2020 to fight cancer. These goals include: significant drops in global tobacco use, obesity, and alcohol intake; universal vaccination programs for hepatitis B and human papilloma virus (HPV); universal availability of effective pain medication; and efforts to dispel misconceptions about cancer. The health organizations say in a detailed report that the most common cancers in the U.S. and Britain are of the breast, colon/rectum, lung, and prostate.

The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends the following cancer-prevention steps.

  • Limit consumption of calorie-dense foods, particularly processed foods high in added sugar, low in fiber, or high in fat.
  • Avoid sugary drinks.
  • Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans.
  • Limit consumption of red meats such as beef, pork, and lamb, and avoid processed meats.
  • Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with sodium.
  • Dietary supplements for lowering cancer risk are not recommended.
  • Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.
  • Be physically active for 30 minutes or more every day.
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Protective properties of green tea

Regularly drinking green tea could protect the brain against developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. The study, published in the academic journal Phytomedicine, also suggests this ancient Chinese remedy could play a vital role in protecting the body against cancer. Led by Dr Ed Okello, the Newcastle team wanted to know if the protective properties of green tea – which have previously been shown to be present in the undigested, freshly brewed form of the drink – were still active once the tea had been digested. Digestion is a vital process which provides our bodies with the nutrients we need to survive. But, says Dr Okello, it also means that just because the food we put into our mouths is generally accepted to contain health-boosting properties, we can’t assume these compounds will ever be absorbed by the body.

“What was really exciting about this study was that we found when green tea is digested by enzymes in the gut, the resulting chemicals are actually more effective against key triggers of Alzheimer’s development than the undigested form of the tea,” explains Dr Okello, based in the School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development at Newcastle University and executive director of the university’s Medicinal Plant Research Group. “In addition to this, we also found the digested compounds had anti-cancer properties, significantly slowing down the growth of the tumour cells which we were using in our experiments.”

As part of the research, the Newcastle team worked in collaboration with Dr Gordon McDougall of the Plant Products and Food Quality Group at the Scottish Crop Research Institute in Dundee, who developed technology which simulates the human digestive system. It is this which made it possible for the team to analyse the protective properties of the products of digestion. Two compounds are known to play a significant role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease – hydrogen peroxide and a protein known as beta-amyloid. Previous studies have shown that compounds known as polyphenols, present in black and green tea, possess neuroprotective properties, binding with the toxic compounds and protecting the brain cells.

When ingested, the polyphenols are broken down to produce a mix of compounds and it was these the Newcastle team tested in their latest research. “It’s one of the reasons why we have to be so careful when we make claims about the health benefits of various foods and supplements,” explains Dr Okello. “There are certain chemicals we know to be beneficial and we can identify foods which are rich in them but what happens during the digestion process is crucial to whether these foods are actually doing us any good.” Carrying out the experiments in the lab using a tumour cell model, they exposed the cells to varying concentrations of the different toxins and the digested green tea compounds.

Dr Okello explained: “The digested chemicals protected the cells, preventing the toxins from destroying the cells. “We also saw them affecting the cancer cells, significantly slowing down their growth. Green tea has been used in Traditional Chinese medicine for centuries and what we have here provides the scientific evidence why it may be effective against some of the key diseases we face today.”

The next step is to discover whether the beneficial compounds are produced during digestion after healthy human volunteers consume tea polyphenols. The team has already received funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to take this forward. Dr Okello adds: “There are obviously many factors which together have an influence on diseases such as cancer and dementia – a good diet, plenty of exercise and a healthy lifestyle are all important. “But I think it’s fair to say that at least one cup of green tea every day may be good for you and I would certainly recommend it.”

(Source: Newcastle University: Phytomedicine)

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Atopic dermatitis may be food allergy

In the past, positive blood and skin tests would often be mistaken for a food allergy because they would indicate the presence of immunoglobulin E antibodies, but it is important to remember that these are typically higher in patients with atopic dermatitis, according to a speaker at the 69th Annual American Academy of Dermatology Meeting conducted in New Orleans this week. “Those antibodies are not diagnostic, and the only way to diagnose food allergy is with a strong history of reactions or a challenge,” Jon M. Hanifin, MD, of Oregon Health & Science University, said in a press release. “This is done in a doctor’s office, using small increments of the food in question and increasing the amount until an allergic reaction occurs or does not occur. Usually a parent can pinpoint if a child has a true food allergy because the allergic reaction will appear so quickly with lip swelling or hives, quite distinct from simply food intolerance.”

Between 6% and 10% of children have atopic dermatitis, and about one-third of these children have food allergy. Recent research examining the genetic basis of atopic dermatitis has shown that this chronic skin condition is likely related to a defect in the epidermal barrier, which allows irritants, microbes and allergens (such as food) to penetrate the skin and cause adverse reactions. Because the skin barrier in patients with atopic dermatitis is compromised and open to absorb proteins, it allows sensitization to certain foods, leading to a positive skin or blood test.

New guidelines recently issued by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases established a protocol for the proper evaluation and management of food allergy. The guidelines recommend that children who are younger than aged 5 years with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis be considered for food allergy evaluation if they have persistent atopic dermatitis despite optimized management or if the child has a reliable history of an immediate reaction after eating a specific food.

Hanifin said research is also ongoing into whether withholding foods is leading to more allergies than an unrestricted diet in young children. This may provide future insight in potential ways to prevent food allergies. He said children in Israel seldom get peanut allergy, which may potentially be attributed to the use of peanut proteins in pacifiers in that country. In the United States and Europe, where peanut allergies are more common, infants are not usually exposed to this food until they are toddlers – the time when most peanut allergies are noticed.

“There is some thinking that withholding foods might actually be causing more allergies, and that an unrestricted diet may help tolerize babies to foods that could potentially cause a problem later in life,” Hanifin said. “Ongoing studies in this country using oral immunotherapy appear promising, and physicians hope that we may discover how to prevent food allergies in the future while continuing to provide successful treatment for children with atopic dermatitis.”

Source: Hanifin J. Food allergy and dermatology. Presented at: The American Academy of Dermatology 69th Annual Meeting; Feb. 4-8, 2011; New Orleans

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Food allergies and ADHD

A controversial new Dutch study may have found a link between food allergies and ADHD. However, many experts are dismissing the findings. The study found that in children with ADHD, putting them on a restrictive diet to eliminate possible, previously unknown food allergies or sensitivities decreased hyperactivity for 64% of them. “There is a longstanding, somewhat inconsistent story about diet and ADHD,” said Jan Buitelaar, the lead author of the Dutch study and a psychiatrist at the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre. “On the one hand, people think it’s sugar that’s the trigger, others think that food coloring could be causing ADHD. Our approach was quite different. We went [with] the idea that food may give some kind of allergic or hyperactivity reaction to the brain.”

There have been previous studies in this field, but they were limited. “This has long been viewed as a kind of a controversial approach,” Buitelaar said. “When we started the research, I was skeptical, but the results convinced me.”

In the study, of the 41 kids who completed the elimination diet, 32 saw decreased symptoms. When certain foods thought to be “triggers” for each child were reintroduced, most of the children relapsed. Among 50 kids given a “control” diet that was just a standard, healthy diet for children, no significant changes were noted. Given these findings, Buitelaar recommended that the elimination diet become part of standard of care for children with ADHD. However, while pediatricians acknowledge some effectiveness, they were against the elimination diet as part of the care for children with ADHD.

“People seem to think that dietary modification is essentially ‘free,’ but it is difficult, socially disruptive, and presents the risk for nutritional deficiency,” said Dr. Michael Daines, a pediatric allergist-immunologist at the University of Arizona. Though Daines is willing to work with families who want to try an elimination diet for treating ADHD, he feels it will only have an effect if the child is having a true food allergy or intolerance.

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Tomatoes may reduce prostate cancer

Choosing to eat tomatoes not only reduces a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer, but also shrinks the existing tumors, claims a new Italian study. Researchers theorize that the secret may lie in lycopene, the powerful anti-oxidant that makes tomatoes red. Lycopene helps neutralize harmful free radicals that are implicated in various kinds of cancer, cardiovascular problems, macular degeneration and other age-related illnesses. However, the benefit was strongest for prostate cancer.

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In a bid to assess the prostate cancer-fighting properties of tomatoes, the researchers at the University of Naples conducted an experiment on rodents. For the purpose of the study, the researchers fed laboratory rats implanted with prostate cancer cells, with either a normal diet or that containing 10 percent tomato powder. The tomato powders were made from whole foods so the effects of eating the entire vegetable could be assessed as a nutritional supplement. The investigators noted that the animals fed on tomato powder exhibited slow progression of the disease and also had lower rates of prostate cancer. In contrast, those fed on a normal diet displayed no such benefits.

Joanna Owens, from Cancer Research Britain disagrees stated, “This study doesn’t provide enough evidence that tomatoes can reduce the risk of prostate cancer or prevent progression of the disease in humans. “Other risks such as age, family history and ethnicity are likely to play a much greater role than diet alone.” The study has been published in the journal ‘Cancer Prevention Research.’

 

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Healthy foods ensure a longer life

A new study has found that the leading causes of death are no more infectious diseases but chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer – which may be affected by food habits. Researchers investigated eating patterns of over 2500 adults between the ages of 70 and 79 over a ten-year period and found that certain diets were associated with reduced mortality.

By determining the consumption frequency of 108 different food items, researchers were able to group the participants into six different groups as per their food choices:

  • Healthy foods- 374 participants
  • High-fat dairy products- 332
  • Meat, fried foods, and alcohol- 693
  • Breakfast cereal-386
  • Refined grains-458
  • Sweets and desserts-339

‘Healthy foods’ group ate more low-fat dairy products, fruit, whole grains, poultry, fish, and vegetables, and lower consumption of meat, fried foods, sweets, high-calorie drinks, and added fat. ‘High-fat dairy products’ group had higher intake of foods such as ice cream, cheese, and 2 per cent and whole milk and yoghurt, and lower intake of poultry, low-fat dairy products, rice, and pasta.

End results indicated that ‘High-fat dairy products’ group had a 40 per cent higher risk of mortality than the Healthy foods cluster and the ‘Sweets and desserts’ group had a 37 per cent higher risk. No significant differences in risk of mortality were seen between the ‘Healthy foods’ cluster and the ‘Breakfast cereal’ or ‘Refined grains’ clusters.

The “results of this study suggest that older adults who follow a dietary pattern consistent with current guidelines to consume relatively high amounts of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry and fish, may have a lower risk of mortality,” said Amy L. Anderson at Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Maryland.

“Because a substantial percentage of older adults in this study followed the ”Healthy foods” dietary pattern, adherence to such a diet appears a feasible and realistic recommendation for potentially improved survival and quality of life in the growing older adult population.” The study will be published in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association .

 

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Neanderthals may have feasted on meat and two veg diet

Scientists have upgraded their opinion of Neanderthal cuisine after spotting traces of cooked food on the fossilised teeth of our long-extinct cousins. The researchers found remnants of date palms, seeds and legumes – which include peas and beans – on the teeth of three Neanderthals uncovered in caves in Iraq and Belgium. Among the scraps of food embedded in the plaque on the Neanderthals' teeth were particles of starch from barley and water lilies that showed tell-tale signs of having been cooked. The Ice Age leftovers are believed to be the first direct evidence that the Neanderthal diet included cooked plants as well as meat obtained by hunting wild animals.

Dolores Piperno, who led the study at the archaeobiology laboratory at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, said the work showed Neanderthals were more sophisticated diners than many academics gave them credit for. Piperno said the discoveries even raised the possibility that male and female Neanderthals had different roles in acquiring and preparing food. “The plants we found are all foods associated with early modern human diets, but we now know Neanderthals were exploiting those plants and cooking them, too. When you cook grains it increases their digestibility and nutritional value,” she added.

The findings bring fresh evidence to the long debate over why Neanderthals and not our direct ancestors, the early modern humans, went extinct. The last of the Neanderthals are thought to have died out around 28,000 years ago, but it is unclear what role – if any – modern humans played in their demise. “The whole question of why Neanderthals went extinct has been controversial for a long time and dietary issues play a significant part in that,” Piperno said. “Some scholars claim the Neanderthals were specialised carnivores hunting large game and weren't able to exploit a diversity of plant foods. “As far as we know, there has been until now no direct evidence that Neanderthals cooked their foods and very little evidence they were consuming plants routinely.”

Piperno's team was given permission to study the remains of three Neanderthal skeletons. One was unearthed at the Shanidar cave in Iraq and lived 46,000 years ago. The other two were recovered from the Cave of Spy in Belgium, and date to around 36,000 years ago. The scientists examined three teeth from the Iraqi Neanderthal and two from each of the Belgium specimens. To look for traces of food on them, they scraped fossilised plaque from each tooth and looked at it under a microscope. Grains from plants are tiny, but have distinct shapes that the scientists identified by comparing them with a collection at the Smithsonian's herbarium. The researchers also cooked a range of plants to see how their appearance changed.

They collected 73 starch grains from the Iraqi Neanderthal's teeth. Some of these belonged to barley or a close relative, and appeared to have been boiled in water. “The evidence for cooking is strong. The starch grains are gelatinised, and that can only come from heat associated with cooking,” Piperno said. Similar tests on the Belgian Neanderthals' teeth revealed traces of cooked starch that probably came from parts of water lilies that store carbohydrates. Other cooked starch grains were traced back to sorghum, a kind of grass.

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

In Piperno's opinion, the research undermines one theory that suggests early modern humans drove the Neanderthals to extinction by having a more sophisticated and robust diet. The work also raises questions about whether Neanderthals organised themselves in a similar way to early hunter-gatherer groups, she said. “When you start routinely to exploit plants in your diet, you can arrange your settlements according to the season. In two months' time you want to be where the cereals are maturing, and later where the date palms are ready to pick. It sounds simplistic, but this is important in terms of your overall cognitive abilities. “In early human groups, women typically collected plants and turned them into food while men hunted. To us, and it is just a suggestion, this brings up the possibility that there was some sexual division of labour in the Neanderthals and that is something most people did not think existed.”

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