Saturday, July 31, 2010

Looking for More Whole Grains?

Adding more whole grains to your diet is good advice, especially for athletes. Now it will be even easier to find this important carbohydrate in your favorite grocery store.

Kraft Foods has announced plans to double the amount of whole grain in its Nabisco-brand crackers, as Americans continue to struggle to consume their recommended three servings of whole grain a day.

Most Americans only get about one serving of whole grains each day, meaning that they could be missing out on some key nutrients such as fiber, B vitamins, iron and magnesium, Kraft said.

Kraft’s president of global health and wellness Rhonda Jordan said: “Nine out of ten Americans eat less than the recommended daily amount of whole grains. And a growing number of consumers are trying to increase their consumption of whole grains. By significantly increasing the amount of whole grain in our crackers, we're giving them an easy, delicious way to get the whole grain they need in the foods they already enjoy."

The company said it would increase whole grain in more than 100 products over the next three years, including:

Doubling the amount of whole grain in Original Wheat Thins from 11g to 22g per serving;
More than tripling the amount in Wheat Thins Toasted Chips from 5g to 17g per serving;
Quadrupling the amount in Honey Maid Original Graham Crackers from 5g to 20g per serving;
And adding whole grain to Premium and Ritz crackers.

Source: FoodNavigator 7/27/10

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Use Super-Market Nutrition Info To Guide Purchases

Myra Vanderpool for years regularly bought her local supermarket's store-brand wheat bread. This spring, she switched brands.

What prompted Ms. Vanderpool's move was a new nutritional-scoring system being tested at her Kroger Co. grocery store in Lexington, Ky., that ranks thousands of foods on a scale of 1 (low in nutrition) to 100 (really healthy). The results, posted next to items on the grocer's shelf, were eye-opening: Her regular bread scored a 23, the same as Häagen-Dazs coffee ice cream.

Kroger's scoring system is part of a nationwide move by grocery retailers to get pushier about offering nutritional advice. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the country's biggest food retailer, plans to announce details of its own "nutrition program" later this summer, said a spokeswoman, who declined to elaborate.

Supermarkets are hoping to increase their shoppers' loyalty, and perhaps win back some customers who have turned for at least some of their purchases to specialty stores such as Whole Foods Market Inc. and big-box retailers like Wal-Mart. Sales of natural and organic foods jumped 72% to $31.9 billion in the five years ended 2009, while functional, or fortified, foods rose 44% to $37.3 billion in the same period, according to Nutrition Business Journal. And big food makers have been rolling out more options that are lower in salt and saturated fat and higher in fiber and whole grains.

Food by the Numbers
Some supermarkets have begun using the NuVal scoring system, which ranks a food product's nutrition from 1 (low in nutrition) to 100 (really healthy). Here are some comparisons:

Example of Product Scores
Bottled Juices
V8 Splash Diet Berry Blend 57 Ocean Spray Light - Cranberry Juice Cocktail 2

Cold Cereal
Post Original Shredded Wheat 91
Kellogg's Special K, Original 23

Kashi Heart to Heart Roasted Garlic Whole Grain Crackers 36
Keebler Club Snack Sticks Honey Wheat Crackers 3

Fresh Bread & Rolls
Pepperidge Farm Whole Grain Bread 46
Sara Lee Heart Healthy Wheat & Honey Dinner Roll 24

Frozen Entrees
Kashi All Natural Pesto Pasta Primavera 44
Weight Watchers Smart Ones Frozen Three-Cheese Macaroni 20

Frozen Potatoes
Ore Ida Frozen Country Style Hash Browns shredded 91
McCain Frozen Regular French Fries Crinkle Cut 26

Luncheon Meats
Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh Shaved Black Forest Ham 33
Hormel Natural Choice Sliced Hard Salami 7

Natural Cheese
Sargento Fat Free Riccotta Natural Cheese 30
Kraft 100-Calorie Cheese Bites Mozzarella Garlic and Herb 16

Snack Bars
Clif Bar Nectar Cacao 41
Nature Valley Cashew Sweet & Salty Nut Granola Bar 5

Spaghetti Sauce
Ragu Fresh & Simple Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce 54
Bertolli Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce 50

Breyer's Light Black Cherry Jubilee 99
Dannon Activia Blueberry Low-fat 23

Some food makers object to their products being scored for nutrition. They say shoppers consider a variety of factors when buying food. And they say that relying on a single nutritional score can make it difficult for consumers to understand how the foods they buy fit into a diet. It also can result in surprises, like the wheat bread Ms. Vanderpool bought that scored the same as an ice cream. A spokesman for the nutritional-scoring system, called NuVal, said calcium and vitamin A boosted the ice cream's score, while added sodium and low-fiber content hurt the bread's ranking.

Kellogg Co.'s Kashi brand in a statement said it tries to provide minimally processed, organic-certified food free of artificial flavors and other additives. "Many of the current nutrient-profiling systems don't take these values into account, which results in an incomplete picture," it said.

NuVal developers say the strength of the system is mainly in showing how one product brand or variety can be more nutritious than another. General Mills Inc.'s Cascadian Farm french fries, for instance, get a score of 76, while McCain Foods crinkle-cut french fries score a 26. A McCain spokeswoman said the company isn't familiar enough with NuVal to comment.

A NuVal spokesman said the McCain fries have more sodium and saturated fat than the Cascadian Farms product. He said food makers aren't shown the scores before they appear on grocers' store shelves.

Some food makers object to their NuVal scores. General Mills' Cheerios, for instance, scores a 37, while Original-flavor Post Shredded Wheat, made by Ralcorp Holdings Inc., gets a 91. "We do not believe that Shredded Wheat should be rated above Cheerios," a General Mills spokeswoman said in an email. She noted the nutritional value of Cheerios, including that it is low in fat and cholesterol-free, and that its No. 1 ingredient is whole-grain oats, but declined to elaborate. A NuVal spokesman said Cheerios has less fiber and more sodium per serving than does Shredded Wheat.

The scores can influence shoppers' choices. Ron Gill, a 44-year-old insurance salesman in Lexington, Ky., keeps an eye on the NuVal scores posted at his local Kroger store. On a recent shopping trip, in the processed-meat aisle, Mr. Gill passed up his usual Ball Park brand hotdogs, made by Sara Lee Corp., with a score of 7. Instead, he picked up Johnsonville Sausage LLC.'s smoked turkey sausage, which had a score of 10.

"It's a little difference, going in the right direction," Mr. Gill said.

Source: Wall Street Journal 7/20/10

Mom was right: You are what you eat!

We are what we eat. We've all heard it, but most of us probably don't quite believe it. After all, you've had french fries and didn't sprout french fry antennae. So we're not really what we eat ... are we?

We are. It's every bit as true as it is hard to see. Just as our homes are made from lumber without looking like trees, our bodies are made from the nutrients we extract from foods without resembling those foods. The nutritional content of what we eat determines the composition of our cell membranes, bone marrow, blood, and hormones. Consider that the average adult loses roughly 300 billion cells to old age every day and must replace them. Our bodies are literally manufactured out of the food we consume.

That's why what we put in them is of utmost importance — and why "clean food" is an urgent priority and "junk" food is neither cute nor innocuous. In short, our bodies are only as clean as the food we feed them.

Before 1993, a list of the leading causes of death in the United States included heart disease, cancer, and stroke. But in that year, J. Michael McGinnis, MD, and William Foege, MD, changed this paradigm when they published "Actual Causes of Death in the United States" in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which looked at the causes of these diseases.

They concluded that fully half the annual deaths — roughly a million — were premature and could've been postponed by modifying behaviors, including smoking, diet and exercise, alcohol consumption, use of firearms, sexual behavior, motor vehicle crashes, and illicit drug use. Smoking and poor eating and exercise habits alone accounted for 700,000 premature deaths in 1990.

In 2004, a group of scientists at the CDC revisited this issue in JAMA and came to the same conclusion. This time, however, the toll from eating badly had gone up, due to obesity and diabetes.

Then, last summer, CDC scientists published a paper in the Archives of Internal Medicine analyzing records of more than 23,000 German adults enrolled in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study (EPIC) and investigated four behaviors: Are you eating well? Are you a healthy weight? Are you physically active? Do you smoke?

Those with four good answers (eating well, body mass index below 30, active, not smoking), compared with those with four bad answers (not eating well, BMI above 30, not active, and smoking), were 80 percent less likely to have any major chronic disease. (Imagine if a pill could reduce our risk of dying prematurely from any cause by 80 percent!)

That's the power and promise in clean eating, so it helps to know what it means. Is it organic? Not necessarily. Food can be organic without being nutritious — think organic gummy bears — or nutritious without being organic, such as conventionally grown broccoli. Organic is a good thing, but it's not a summary measure of "clean."

Clean foods are minimally processed and as direct from nature as possible. They're whole and free of additives, colorings, flavorings, sweeteners, and hormones. I particularly like foods with one-word ingredients, such as spinach, blueberries, almonds, salmon, and lentils. The longer the ingredient list, the more room there is for manufacturing mischief — additions of chemicals, sugar, salt, harmful oils, and unneeded calories — and the more likely it is that you should step away from the package so no one gets hurt!

There's also strong evidence that, as a rule, the closer to nature you eat, the fewer calories it will take for you to feel satisfied. The reason? Processed foods often have low amounts of fiber and water; a high ratio of calories to nutrients; and a mix of tastes from added sugar, salt, and flavoring that overly stimulates the appetite center in the hypothalamus. Clean foods are the opposite: lots of fiber and fluid, a high ratio of nutrients to calories, and free of added flavors — all of which send signals of satiety to your brain before you consume too many calories. As an example, think of how many raw almonds you eat before stopping, then compare that to honey roasted almonds — that sugary coating spurs you to eat more. By eating clean, you can control your weight permanently without feeling deprived or hungry or having constant cravings.

So, let's sum up the importance of eating clean. Our bodies are replacing billions of cells every day — and using the foods we consume as the source of building materials. Eating well is part of the formula that can reduce our risk of any major chronic disease by 80 percent and reach into our innermost selves to improve the health of our very genes.

Source: David Katz MD, Prevention, July 25, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Great Tips for Boosting Metabolism

You can partly thank your parents for the speed of your metabolism. Genes contribute to the levels of appetite-control hormones we have floating around in our bodies, Goldsmith explains. "Some people are genetically programmed to be active; they're
naturally restless and use more energy," she says.Those are the lucky high-metabolism types.

Gender also plays a role. "The average man's metabolism is about 10 (percent) to 15% higher than a woman's," Goldsmith notes. That's mainly because men have more muscle mass than women do, which means they burn more calories. "Muscle does the work to help you move, while fat just sits there," says John Porcari, a Fitness advisory board member and director of the clinical exercise physiology program at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Not only that, but women's bodies are designed to
hold on to body fat in case of pregnancy. Talk about unfair.

The good news is, you can make your metabolism faster, experts say, despite genetics and gender.These are some simple secrets to boosting it big-time.

1. Exercise more often.
Working out is the No. 1 way to keep your furnace burning at a high level.The more lean muscle you have, the more calories you burn all day. That's because muscle
uses energy even when you're resting. Exercise enough and you can help prevent the natural metabolic slowdown that can begin as early as your late 20s, according to Goldsmith.

2. Kick up your cardio.

Aerobic intervals will help you maximize your burn, doubling the number of calories you torch during a workout, studies show. Intervals also keep your metabolic rate higher than a steady-pace routine does for as long as an hour after you stop exercising, according to Michele Olson, a Fitness advisory board member and professor of exercise science at Auburn University at Montgomery in Alabama. That means you could blast as many as 65 additional calories after your sweat session. The ideal metabolism-boosting interval routine is to "go hard for a couple of minutes, then take it down to an easier pace for a minute or two, and keep alternating like that throughout your workout," Talbott says.

3. Put some muscle behind it.

Too many women steer clear of weight machines, fearing that they'll bulk up. Or they work only their legs and skip their arms. Don't make this mistake. A head-to-toe strength routine will turbocharge your calorie-blasting quotient. Add five pounds of
muscle to your body and you can zap as many as 600 calories an hour during your workout, Olson says. Be sure to choose a weight-lifting routine that targets your core, legs, arms, chest and shoulders; challenging numerous muscles will help your body function like a calorie-burning machine, Goldsmith says. Find some great total-body strength workouts at

4. Don't skip meals.

We know you're superbusy, but make sure you grab lunch. "Simply chewing, digesting and absorbing food kicks your metabolism into gear," says Jim White, a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "The more frequently you eat, the more often it revs up." Conversely, missing a meal, or going too long
between meals, brings your metabolism to a crawl. "Your body switches into starvation mode and your system slows down to conserve energy," White
explains. Keep your engine humming by having three healthy meals of 300 to 400 calories and two snacks of 200 to 300 calories every day, he advises.

5. Fill up on smart foods.

Start by serving yourself protein at every sitting, says Dr. Darwin Deen, medical professor in the department of community health and social medicine at City College of New York and a co-author of Nutrition for Life. Not only does your body need it to help build lean muscle mass, but protein also takes more calories to digest. To get your fix, have low-fat yogurt at breakfast, chicken in your salad at lunch and salmon for dinner. Between meals, snack on protein-rich walnuts. They contain
Advertisement omega-3 fatty acids, which help promote weight loss by increasing your feelings of fullness, according to a recent study in the journal Appetite.

6. Eat breakfast.

It will switch your metabolism from idle to high speed. That's because your level of cortisol, a hormone that helps you use calories to build muscle, is highest just before you get up in the morning. When you eat an a.m. meal, your body is primed to turn those calories into muscle pronto — the only time during the day this happens. Take advantage of the natural torching process by havinga healthy breakfast of scrambled eggs, low-fat turkey bacon and a piece of whole-grain toast.

7. Go to bed earlier.

Deprive yourself of sleep and your body starts to respond as if it were under siege. "When you get two hours less shut-eye than you normally do, your system becomes stressed and produces about 50%more cortisol," Talbott says. "That in turn triggers your appetite."

At the same time, lack of zzz's throws the body's hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin out of whack, making you more likely to overeat. Skimp on pillowtime for too long and you could be facing a serious weight problem, says Michael Breus, author of Good
Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health. In a 16-year study of sleep-deprived women published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that those who slept seven to eight hours a night had the lowest risk for major weight gain, while women who got six hours a night were 12% more likely to pile on a significant number of pounds, and those who logged five hours or less were 32% more likely to gain weight.

Source:July/August 2010 issue of Fitness magazine.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Smart Phones May Help With Weight Loss

FOR most of us, the formula for losing weight is a simple one: eat less, exercise more. But humans are anything but simple, and the majority of Americans struggle endlessly with losing pounds and keeping them off.

“We really haven’t come up with one good weight-loss solution,” said Dr. James A. Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic. “If we had, everyone would be using it.”

Consuming fewer calories is perhaps the most difficult part of the weight-loss equation; many dieters are daunted by the prospect of tabulating their daily intake. That’s why many experts and consumers are excited about the new weight-loss programs available for iPhone, BlackBerry and other smartphones.

The apps — which are simple, fun and often free — help users track the number of calories and nutrients they consume, as well as the number of calories they burn. Users learn to balance calorie intake and activity in real time.

Though there is no data on whether mobile apps are more effective than joining a traditional dieting program (apps are too new for long-term studies), their popularity is telling. Since LoseIt, now one of the most highly rated free apps, hit the iTunes store in November 2008, more than five million people have downloaded the program.

“We’re linking weight loss to the coolest gadgets in the world,” said Dr. Levine, who helped develop the Walk n’ Play app, which calculates the total calories one burns each day.

Dennis Dodge, 67, and his wife, Carolyn, 68, recently started using LoseIt to shed weight and control their diabetes. The retired couple, who live in Hampden, Me., tapped their age, weight and goals into their iPod Touches, and the app told them how many calories they should eat each day. Every day they record what they eat and how much they exercise.

The couple, who are using LoseIt as part of a diabetes program run by a local hospital, said they were intimidated at first by the technology but had found the app remarkably easy and even fun to use. “I am now more cognizant of my habits,” Mr. Dodge said.

Mrs. Dodge added: “With other diets you follow their regimen. With this, you set your own goal.”

When you track calories closely, you lose more weight, said Dr. Lawrence Cheskin, associate professor of health, behavior and society at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. But dieters who simply write down their intake at the end of each day tend to underestimate the calories they have consumed (call it wishful thinking).

The beauty of mobile apps is that they work in real time. You eat lunch and immediately log in your meal on your phone. The apps rely on databases to record the calorie counts of thousands of foods, whether a single item like an apple or a prepared meal like a sub sandwich, which takes the guesswork out of totaling calories.

Weight-loss experts are hopeful that apps will help turn chronic dieters into healthy eaters. If you’re looking at a menu wondering whether to order pasta primavera or a Caesar salad, an app can tell you on the spot which option has fewer calories.

Over time, this information becomes part of your own internal database and, the thought is, dieters begin to make healthier choices.

Dana Green, a diabetes specialist at St. Joseph Healthcare Diabetes Institute of Behavioral Medicine in Bangor, Me., has been testing the LoseIt program with a small group of his patients, including the Dodges. Since April, almost all of the 17 patients, ranging in age from 48 to 76, have lost weight and lowered their blood sugar. One man lost six pounds; two of the women in the program were able to reduce their insulin intake by 20 percent, Mr. Green said.

“Patients begin to see their patterns and habits and so make better decisions,” he said. “I’m extremely optimistic.”

With mobile apps, dieters also can better visualize the relationship between exercise and eating. A 30-minute walk burns about 100 calories, they learn, while jogging for the same time at 6 miles per hour burns four times that.

When the user realizes she’s almost hit her daily calorie limit, she can opt to go to the gym — or to eat carrots for dinner. “We’re teaching people to think like economic consumers,” says Charles Teague, the chief executive of FitNow, which produces LoseIt.

If want to give a weight-loss app a try, there are a few things to bear in mind before you get started.

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE It is always a good idea to check with your doctor before beginning a weight-loss plan. Your primary care physician can help you set reasonable goals and also take a look at the app you’ve chosen to make sure it seems legitimate and reasonable.

“Apps are not regulated,” said Dr. Joseph Kim, founder of the Medical Smartphones blog. “There is no certification process to vet which weight-loss apps are better than others.”

SIMPLICITY COUNTS Opt for an app that is basic and intuitive. “The interactive part of these programs is what makes them successful,” said Mr. Green, the diabetes specialist.

Losing weight is hard enough — you don’t also need to contend with a program that has an annoying interface, is slow or too complicated.

SHARE YOUR PROGESS Some apps, like LoseIt, let you share your dieting progress with friends or other users via Facebook or Twitter. Many apps are linked to Web sites where users can chat on forums and blogs. If human support is important to you, choose an app that has social networking built in.

Not all experts are convinced that will be enough, however. “What we’ve learned over the years is that support from a real human, face-to-face, is essential to keeping weight off over the long term,” said Dr. Cheskin of Johns Hopkins.

“It’s worth trying something new,” he added, “but don’t expect miracles.”

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Why Do We Want Dessert Even When We Are Full?

Eating to Live or Living to Eat?

It's after lunch, so everybody is full. Then, in comes a luscious chocolate confection. The sight, the smell—even the sound of the word "cake!"—stimulate the reward-and-pleasure circuits of the brain, activating memory centers and salivary glands as well. Those reactions quickly drown out the subtle signals from the stomach that are saying, in effect, "Still digesting down here. Don't send more!" Social cues add pressure and permission to indulge. Soon, everybody is having a slice—or two.

Scholars have understood the different motives for eating as far back as Socrates, who counseled, "Thou shouldst eat to live, not live to eat." But nowadays, scientists are using sophisticated brain-imaging technology to understand how the lure of delicious food can overwhelm the body's built-in mechanism to regulate hunger and fullness, what's called "hedonic" versus "homeostatic" eating.

One thing is clear: Obese people react much more hedonistically to sweet, fat-laden food in the pleasure and reward circuits of the brain than healthy-weight people do. Simply seeing pictures of tempting food can light up the pleasure-seeking areas of obese peoples' brains.

Two Reactions to Cake

Two conferences this week on obesity are each examining aspects of how appetite works in the brain and why some people ignore their built-in fullness signals. Scientists hope that breakthroughs will lead to ways to retrain people's thinking about food or weight-loss drugs that can target certain brain areas.

In a study presented this week at the International Conference on Obesity in Stockholm, researchers from Columbia University in New York showed pictures of cake, pies, french fries and other high-calorie foods to 10 obese women and 10 non-obese women and monitored their brain reactions on fMRI scans. In the obese women, the images triggered a strong response in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), a tiny spot in the midbrain where dopamine, the "desire chemical," is released. The images also activated the ventral pallidum, a part of the brain involved in planning to do something rewarding.

"When obese people see high-calorie foods, a widespread network of brain areas involved in reward, attention, emotion, memory and motor planning is activated, and all the areas talk to each other, making it hard for them to resist," says lead investigator Susan Carnell, a research psychiatrist at the New York Obesity Research Center at Columbia University.

The Power of Cake?
This Power-of-Food Scale helps gauge how vulnerable you are to 'hedonic' eating. Indicate from 1-5 which of the following best describes you:

1 Don't agree at all
2 Agree a little
3 Agree somewhat
4 Agree
5 Strongly agree

___ 1. I find myself thinking about food even when I'm not physically hungry.

___ 2. I get more pleasure from eating than I do from almost anything else.

___ 3. If I see or smell a food I like, I get a powerful urge to have some.

___ 4. When I'm around a fattening food I love, it's hard to stop myself from at least tasting it.

___ 5. It's scary to think of the power that food has over me.

___ 6. When I know a delicious food is available, I can't help myself from thinking about having some.

___ 7. I love the taste of certain foods so much that I can't avoid eating them even if they're bad for me.

___ 8. Just before I taste a favorite food, I feel intense anticipation.

___ 9. When I eat delicious food I focus a lot on how good it tastes.

___ 10. Sometimes, when I'm doing everyday activities, I get an urge to eat "out of the blue" (for no apparent reason).

___ 11. I think I enjoy eating a lot more than most other people.

___ 12. Hearing someone describe a great meal makes me really want to have something to eat.

___ 13. It seems like I have food on my mind a lot.

___ 14. It's very important to me that the foods I eat are as delicious as possible.

___ 15. Before I eat a favorite food my mouth tends to flood with saliva.

Scoring: Add up your responses and divide the total by 15.

1.0 - 2.3: You're unlikely to be preoccupied with food or lose control over eating.

2.4 - 3.6: You're somewhat preoccupied with food but are unlikely to have a problem unless you're significantly overweight.

3.7 - 5.0: You're frequently preoccupied with food and at risk of losing control over your eating. This is especially problematic if you are also significantly overweight.

Source: Walll Street Journal, July 13, 2010.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Relaxation Drinks??

FOR years, high school and college students have managed to meet deadlines by guzzling so-called energy drinks like Jolt, Red Bull and Rockstar.

But, as it turns out, the drinks may have worked a little too well.

The nation is so wired that it looks as if consumers are now thirsting for anti-energy drinks.

Relaxation drinks like Snoozeberry and iChill and soporific beverages with names like Unwind, Dream Water, Koma Unwind Chillaxation and Drank are aiming to take away the very buzz their caffeinated predecessors were designed to deliver. There are already more than 350 kinds of relaxation drinks on the market, according to Agata Kaczanowska, an analyst with the research company IBISWorld. Instead of slogans like Jolt’s “All the sugar and twice the caffeine,” these new drinks proffer serenity with maxims like Unwind’s “Tired of being wired?” and Drank’s “Slow your roll.”

Though that’s not all they are promising.

Drank claims it can help prevent jet lag. A drink called Blue Cow says it can improve concentration, relieve anxiety and irritability from fatigue, and even diminish PMS symptoms.

These would-be wonder drinks are coming soon to more grocery, big-box and convenience stores across the land. In the beverage industry they are known as “relaxation drinks” — and they are a big business.

The industry is expected to generate $500 million in sales revenue this year, according to IBISWorld, a year-over-year increase of about 327 percent.

The drinks often contain melatonin, valerian root and rose hips. But relaxation drinks are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Not all relaxation drinks contain melatonin or valerian, though. Blue Cow, for instance, does not. Some brands have a lot of sugar; others have none. Yet even an ingredient as seemingly benign as rose hips, which contain vitamin C, can be problematic because too much vitamin C can harm your stomach.

The beverage makers say on their Web sites that the levels they recommend are safe. Doctors say there is no way to know, and that consumers should confer with their physicians before drinking a bottle — which typically costs several dollars.

Dr. Karmally offered some alternatives: take a warm bath before bedtime, listen to relaxing music, practice yoga, sip warm milk.

“A cup of skim milk,” she said, “is about 25 cents.”

Popular Food Additive Can Cause Stomach Ache

By Rachael Myers Lowe

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - "Stealth fiber" increasingly added to processed foods, while not a problem for most, can cause gastrointestinal discomfort for some who may not know they're consuming too much of it, Minnesota researchers warn. The fiber is called "inulin."

"Normal fiber foods like wheat bran and legumes are self-limiting, it's hard to over eat them," Joanne Slavin, a registered dietitian in the department of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota at St. Paul, told Reuters Health.

Inulin, she explained, may be in chocolate bars, drinks, and snacks around the house, and "before you know it, you may eat more than you can tolerate and have gastrointestinal issues you wouldn't necessarily associate" with those foods.

Inulin is a carbohydrate fiber that occurs naturally in many foods like bananas, wheat, onions and garlic. Found in high concentrations in chicory root, is can be extracted for industrial use. Unlike more familiar carbohydrates, which are broken down in the small intestines and turned into fuel for the body, inulin passes through the small intestines to the colon where it stimulates the growth of "good bacteria" and is fermented by bacteria. In some people it can cause gas, bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea.

Because of its growing popularity as a food additive, Slavin and her colleagues wanted to assess how much inulin it takes to cause gastrointestinal problems.

They designed a study involving 26 healthy men and women aged 18 to 60. After a night of fasting, once a week for five weeks, participants were fed a breakfast of a bagel with cream cheese and orange juice. The orange juice was mixed with a placebo or with 5- or 10-gram doses of two commonly used inulin products -- native inulin and shorter-chain oligofructose.

After their "fiber challenge," participants were called several times over two days and asked about symptoms such as gas/bloating, nausea, flatulence, stomach cramping, diarrhea, constipation and GI rumbling.

Those that got any dose of inulin generally reported "mild symptoms"; the highest scores in every symptom except constipation were reported by those who got 10 grams of oligofructose. The findings are in line with previous research that found the short-chain "sweet" inulin causes faster fermentation in the gut leading to more gas and gastrointestinal symptoms.

Flatulence was the most common symptom reported by all subjects who got fiber although symptoms were "highly variable" among individuals and many subjects did not experience any, the investigators say.

Slavin and colleagues conclude, based on their study, that most healthy people can tolerate up to 10 grams of native inulin and 5 grams of the "sweet" inulin a day.

Food manufacturers, faced with demands to reduce calories, fat, and sodium while increasing fiber and flavor, are increasingly turning to products like inulin. They have discovered they can chemically manipulate the chemical structure of inulin to mimic tastes and textures consumers want in food. "It's like a food manufacturer's nirvana," Slavin said.

Inulin can be found in high fiber breakfast bars, ice creams, and beverages among other processed foods. The label may list inulin, chicory root extract, oligosaccharide, or oligofructose. For example, the Fiber One Chewy Bar with 9 grams of dietary fiber lists chicory root extract as its top ingredient.
Slavin and her colleagues urge continued study of tolerance levels of food additives like inulin because their use is likely to continue to grow and "there is the potential for overuse."

The research was funded by Cargill, Inc. a maker of inulin food additives, which provided the product used in the study.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Dietetic Association, June 2010

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What comes first - inactivity or obesity?

New research from the UK suggests that physical inactivity in children is the result of obesity and not the other way around, challenging the popular view that getting overweight children to exercise more is the key to preventing the childhood obesity; the researchers maintain the path to childhood obesity is set very early in life, long before children go to school and is linked to early feeding habits.

While we all know that overweight children tend to do less exercise, this does not necessarily mean, as many of us might assume, that it is inactivity that leads to obesity, it could be the other way around, and Wilkin and colleagues set out to find some evidence for this and ask the "chicken and egg" question: What came first? Does lack of physical activity precede the changes that lead to fatness in children, or does increasing fatness in children precede changes in physical activity?

By examining the data they had collected over 11 years on over 200 children recruited from 40 Plymouth primary schools, they concluded unequivocally that physical activity had no effect on weight change, but weight change led to less physical activity.

For the study, they examined data on 202 children (25 per cent were overweight or obese, and 53 per cent were boys). The main outcome measures were physical activity and percentage body fat, measured every year.

When the researchers analysed the results, they found that:
Percentage body fat was predictive of changes in physical activity over the following three years.

Physical activity was not predictive of subsequent changes in percentage body fat over the same follow-up period.

A 10 per cent higher body fat percentage at age 7 predicted a relative decrease in daily moderate and vigorous intensities of physical activity (4 min from 7 to 10 years of age).

But more physical activity at age 7 did not predict a relative decrease in percentage body fat between 7 and 10 years of age.
The researchers suggested that children who become overweight may lack confidence and feel embarassed about how they look and this stops them taking part in sporting activity and exercise.They also suggested that overweight children might find exercise discomforting, making them feel pain earlier than normal weight children.

Wilkin and colleagues concluded that:

"Physical inactivity [PA] appears to be the result of fatness rather than its cause."

"This reverse causality may explain why attempts to tackle childhood obesity by promoting PA have been largely unsuccessful," they added.

The implications of this study are very important for public health policy, because it implies that the physical activity of children, which is vital for their fitness and general wellbeing, may never improve unless childhood obesity is tackled first.

A press statement from Peninsula Medical School suggests that EarlyBird has already shown that the paths leading to obesity in childhood are set very early in life, long before children go to school, and that in many cases, obese children are often offspring of an obese same sex parent.

The study suggests that calorie reduction, rather than physical activity, appears to the key to weight reduction in overweight and obese children, pointing to early feeding errors, and the contribution of "portion size, calorie-dense snacks and sugary drinks".

Other findings from EarlyBird include:
Many parents of obese children seem unaware and unconcerned.

Children's inactivity is not due to lack of green spaces and sport centres.

Social inequalities are no longer a major factor: all children are at risk.

Healthy weight for life starts at birth (eg do not overfeed low birth weight babies, they are most at risk of later weight gain).

Obese mothers breed obese girls and obese fathers breed obese boys: it may be more effective to target the obese parent than the obese child.

Girls are naturally more insulin resistant than boys, and therefore at greater risk of type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are essentially the same disorder of insulin resistance, differing only in rate of progress: keeping weight down should help prevent, or at least delay, the onset of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Perhaps one of the most controversial findings from the overall study is that the average child is no heavier than 25 years ago, suggesting the majority of children have not changed in a generation, that the rise in obesity is confined to a small group, and there may be no widespread childhood obesity epidemic.

Source: Fatness leads to inactivity, but inactivity does not lead to fatness: a longitudinal study in children
B S Metcalf, J Hosking, A N Jeffery, L D Voss, W Henley, T J Wilkin.
Arch Dis Child, Published Online First: 23 June 2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Picky Eating - at first cute but now embarrassing and unhealthy

This is what Heather Hill eats: French fries, pasta with butter or marinara sauce, vegetarian pizza, cooked broccoli, corn on the cob and cakes and cookies without nuts.

And what she doesn't eat? Pretty much anything else.

Heather Hill and her daughter, Sarah, grab boxes of saltines at the store. It's one food they both eat readily.
Ms. Hill is what you might call a picky eater. But she isn't a child. She's a 39-year-old mother of three who runs her own business in Raleigh, N.C. She says she is unable to eat other foods. "When I was younger it was cute," Ms. Hill says. "Now it's embarrassing."

People like Ms. Hill have long puzzled clinicians and medical experts because their behaviors don't fit the definition of a traditional eating disorder, in which people aim to achieve a certain body weight. But picky eaters' diets can be so limited that their food preferences interfere with their social and professional relationships, which is one of the hallmarks of a true disorder. Ms. Hill says she lies to her friends about what she eats and avoids parties and business lunches. And although she tries to hide her pickiness from her children, she frequently worries they will acquire her eating habits.

Doctors once thought only kids were picky eaters, and that they would grow out of it. Now, however, a taskforce studying how to categorize eating disorders for the new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, due out in 2013, is considering recognizing for the first time a disorder to be called "selective eating" that could apply to adults as well as children. The DSM, a common psychiatric reference book, would currently lump picky eaters into a classification of eating disorder "not otherwise specified," a catchall category for people who don't meet the criteria for a major disorder.

Doctors worry that over the long term such eating habits could lead to nutritional deficiencies linked to health concerns, including bone and heart problems.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cereal May Be a Very Good Breakfast Choice

Thu, Jul 1 2010

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - You needn't feel guilty if you don't cook hot breakfasts for your kids. In a recent large study of children that compared breakfast-skippers, cereal eaters, and kids who had "other" breakfasts, the cereal-eaters came out on top for healthiest diets.

Regardless of whether their breakfasts were relatively high or low in sugar, the cereal eaters did not consume more than the daily recommended amount.

The breakfast skippers, on the other hand, got more of their daily energy from "added sugars" than breakfast eaters and ended up with less fiber, fewer nutrients, and the smallest percent of their daily energy provided by protein.

They also ended up with larger waists and a higher BMI (body mass index) than their breakfast-eating counterparts, on average.

Skipping breakfast not only starts the day off on the wrong foot nutritionally, but can set kids up for tough health challenges in years to come, the researchers say in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Larger waist size, for example, is a risk factor for diabetes, even in children and adolescents.

Ready-to-eat cereals sometimes get a bum rap because some of them have high sugar contents, study co-author Carol O'Neil of Louisiana State University told Reuters Health. But "many are high in nutrients, vitamin fortified, made with whole grains, with fiber added," she said.

Twenty-two percent of breakfast skippers were obese, compared to just under 20 percent of the "other breakfast" eaters and 15 percent of the cereal eaters.

The researchers analyzed everything the kids ate over a 24-hour period. While they didn't specifically calculate how much of total daily nutrients came from breakfast, they found that kids who ate ready-to-eat cereals had "more favorable nutrient intake profiles" and healthier weights than either the breakfast skippers or kids who ate "other breakfasts."

O'Neil and her colleagues studied nearly 10 thousand kids between the ages of 9 and 18 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1999 and 2006.

They found that 20 percent of children between the ages of nine and 13 and nearly a third of kids from 14 to 18 were skipping breakfast.

The numbers of kids who ate breakfast began to drop off as children got older, and by the time they were in high school, nearly a third were skipping breakfast.

A third of older girls skipped breakfast, the authors found. "Ironically, one of their concerns is about weight so they think they'll skip this meal and get fewer calories during the day when in reality they skip the meal, they're hungry and they start snacking on this, that, and the other, and overall they tend to eat more calories and fewer nutrient-dense foods," O'Neil said.

Kids don't realize that ready-to-eat cereals provide a quick and easy way to get a good breakfast, she added.

"One of the things that needs to be explored now is why so many children skip breakfast and why so many older children skip breakfast," O'Neil said.

She and her colleagues found that a higher percentage of children and adolescents from single-parent or low-income households skipped breakfast. They also found that ready-to-eat cereal consumption was lower in minority kids than in white kids. At least one earlier study has shown than access and availability of healthy foods, including fortified ready-to-eat cereals, are lower for blacks than for whites, the researchers say.

The research was funded by the US Department of Agriculture and Kellogg's Corporate Citizenship Fund.

SOURCE: Rachael Myers Lowe,

Journal of the American Dietetic Association, July 2010.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

McDonalds for Breakfast and Nutrition??

"Long the powerhouse of fast-food breakfast, McDonald's is facing new challenges for morning supremacy. Beyond Burger King, which openly duplicates staples from the McDonald's menu, Starbucks successfully introduced oatmeal two years ago, and Subway entered the fray this spring with its own made-to-order breakfast sandwich."

By January, 2011 McDonalds will be serving up oatmeal at breakfast time. Now test marketed at $1.99, it is selling well in Baltimore and Washington DC. No nutrition data available at this time - my question: how do you eat this and drive at the same time?

Source: Robert Channick, Special to the Chicago Tribune, June 30, 2010.