Monday, January 31, 2005

Phytosterols in Snack-Maker's Plans?

Trying to cut down on cholesterol? Break open a bag of tortilla chips.

It's a scenario that some Brandeis University scientists imagine could someday become a reality.

Researchers are frying chips in oil spiked with an ingredient from plants called phytosterols, which can soak up cholesterol without harming taste.

One of the Brandeis scientists working on the method acknowledges that fried chips, doughnuts and the like may forever remain the stuff of nutritionists' nightmares. He says he's not an advocate of eating chips, he just wants to add the health benefit of reducing cholesterol.

Steve - Of course, looking for the easy way out! Nevertheless, the fact that snack-makers are looking into phytosterols shows that they are making an effort, albeit at a snail's pace, to make some of their products healthier.

Iron supplements may help against post-natal depression

Anaemic mothers who took iron supplements reported significant improvement in depression and anxiety levels after giving birth compared to those who took a placebo, shows a new study.

The randomized, prospective trial, carried out on around 80 South African mothers, was designed to find out whether iron deficiency anaemia in mothers alters their cognition and behaviour and their interaction with their children.

Almost 24 per cent of pregnant mothers in Europe are thought to have anaemia while in the Americas this figure rises to 53 per cent, according to data from the WHO.

The findings could also be significant for mothers without anaemia but lacking in iron intake. Anaemia tends to be less common in richer than in poorer populations but there are frequent cases of iron deficiency among women - it is still the most common of all nutrient deficiencies.

In the new study, a team from Pennsylvania, the University of Cape Town and the University of North Carolina studied three groups of mothers: non-anaemic controls, anaemic mothers receiving a daily iron supplement (125mg) and anaemic mothers taking a placebo.

Iron treatment resulted in a 25 per cent improvement in previously iron-deficient mothers’ depression and stress scales, report the researchers in this month’s Journal of Nutrition (vol 135, pp267-272).

Anaemic mothers administered placebo did not improve in behavioural measures.

The researchers also found a strong association between iron status variables (hemoglobin, mean corpuscular volume, and transferrin saturation) and cognitive variables (Digit Symbol) as well as behavioural variables such as anxiety, stress, depression.

Bonnie - Very important study. Although, I do not advocate taking iron supplements in this dose without consulting your physician or licensed health professional. Natural Progesterone and magnesium are also crucial substances for treating post-natal depression.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Independent Lab Finds False Label Claims In Nutrition Bars

Consumer Laboratories, an independent lab whose purpose is to make sure that dietary supplements and food products meet label claim, then make their findings public, found that the majority of 34 nutrition bars tested met their claims, but the following problems were found in four products:
  • Detour™ New Triple Layer Deluxe Whey Protein Energy Bar (Caramel Peanut) contained 28% more carbohydrates (7 grams) than its stated 25 grams.
  • Keto Bar® (Lemon Chiffon) contained 50% more (1 gram) of saturated fat than its stated 2 grams.
  • Zone Perfect® All Natural Nutrition Bar (Fudge Graham) — contained approximately 27% more saturated fat (.8 grams) than the 3 grams claimed.
  • Slim-Fast® Meal Options® Breakfast & Lunch Bars (Dutch Chocolate) had 3.6 grams of the sugar alcohol lactitol that was not listed on the label.
According to Consumer Labs, differences in the nutritional design among products were striking. It is essential that consumers appreciate how one bar may differ from the next and which is best for them. Some of the key differences found among the bars were:
  • "Net carbs" and sugar alcohols — For "low-carb" dieters, many bars displayed a "net carb" calculation that excluded carbohydrates thought to have less impact on blood sugar and insulin levels. This practice has been neither sanctioned nor stopped by the FDA (which also has not authorized the term "low-carb" in labeling). Total carbohydrates in such products often exceed twenty grams per bar, while the "net carbs" displayed are often only two or three grams. The carbs not counted, typically glycerin and sugar alcohols, still add calories and can easily account for one-quarter of the bar's weight. Some sugar alcohols, such as lactitol, can also have a laxative effect or cause gas.
  • "Bad" fats — At least half the fat in most bars was saturated fat. Saturated fat is associated with an increased risk for heart disease and the USDA recommends that less than 10% of total daily calories should come from saturated fat, which means less that less than one-third of total dietary fat should be saturated. As a reference, a product claiming to be "Low in Saturated Fat" must have less than one gram of saturated fat per serving. Amounts of trans fats, also considered "bad" for the heart, were generally not labeled. These fats can be spotted, however, by looking for "hydrogenated" oils.
  • Added vitamins — Many bars were vitamin-fortified. If you take other vitamins or fortified products (such fortified breakfast cereals or vitamin waters) be careful not to exceed tolerable levels. For example, over 10,000 IU of vitamin A (as retinol) daily can weaken bones. And don't give highly fortified bars to young children — the tolerable level of vitamin A for a 3 year old, for example, is only 2,000 IU per day, while a bar with 50% of the adult daily value (DV) contains 1,500 IU.
  • Bar as a meal — If you're replacing a meal with a bar, be sure it contains enough energy. Calories ranged from as much as 330 down to only 110, depending on bar size and ingredients. Adults need about 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day. If a large amount of a low or no calorie sweetener like sucralose (Splenda") is used, even large bars may leave you hungry.
Bonnie - One must be extremely carfeul when choosing a snack/nutrition bar. I do not advocate making them a staple in your diet for many reasons, including those mentioned above. If, on an occasional basis, you skip a meal, it is better to eat a bar than nothing. For those use bars frequently while exercising, I would treat each case on an individual basis, taking into factors such as, daily nutrient intake, food sensitivity/allergy, medical history, genetic variation, etc.

Overweight Mothers, Overweight Kids?

Six-year-olds whose mothers are overweight are 15 times more likely to be obese than children of slim mothers, shows new research out of the US.

The researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania also say that efforts to prevent obesity should focus on children as young as four, which underlines the potential role of healthy foods developed specifically for children.

The International Obesity TaskForce (IOTF) warned last year that at least 155 million school-age children worldwide are overweight or obese, a growing problem that needs to be tackled now if more serious ailments such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease are to be avoided.

The US team followed 70 children over a six-year period, including 33 with overweight mothers and 37 with lean mothers.

During the first two years of age, weight and body composition differed little between the two groups. But those children whose mothers were overweight had greater overall weight by age four, and both greater weight and more body fat by age six, they write in the January issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (81, pp140-146).

Lilly Says UK Medical Journal Retracts Prozac Claim

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The British Medical Journal has retracted its controversial claims about drug maker Eli Lilly and Co, its drug Prozac and a potential link to suicide, Lilly said on Thursday.

The journal caused a stir late last year when it said it had evidence, including "missing documents" suggesting a link between the anti-depressant and suicidal behavior and appearing to show Lilly had knowledge of these "troubling side effects."

The medical journal now says its claim that Lilly let documents go missing was not what its authors intended.

"The BMJ is happy to set the record straight and to apologize to Eli Lilly for this statement, which we now retract, but which we published in good faith," the article says, according to the drugmaker.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Survey Finds 80 Pct of U.S. Doctors Witness Mistakes

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Eighty percent of U.S. doctors and half of nurses surveyed said they had seen colleagues make mistakes, but only 10 percent ever spoke up, according to a study released on Wednesday.

These mistakes are undoubtedly contributing to the deaths of tens of thousands of people who die from medical errors in the United States each year, the researchers and experts on nursing said.

Joseph Grenny, president of consulting group VitalSmarts, surveyed 1,700 nurses, doctors, hospital administrators and other experts for the study.

"Fifty percent of nurses said they have colleagues who appear incompetent," Grenny told a meeting of clinical care nurses.

"Eighty-four percent of physicians and 62 percent of nurses and other clinical care providers have seen co-workers taking shortcuts that could be dangerous to patients," he added.

The survey found that 88 percent of doctors and 48 percent of nurses and other workers felt they worked with colleagues who showed poor clinical judgment.

A 1999 study by the nonpartisan Institute of Medicine found that up to 98,000 Americans die each year from medical errors in hospitals. Last July, Lakewood, Colorado-based HealthGrades Inc. said the true number was closer to 195,000 people a year.

The errors include giving patients the wrong drug or the wrong dose, surgical errors and spreading germs through unhygienic practices.

Warning over fruit juice 'excess'

Fruit juices and smoothies may seem to be a healthy choice, but dieticians are warning people not to drink too many.

Figures published this week showed Britain now consumes 2.2 billion litres of juice drinks a year - around 36 litres for every man, woman and child.

But experts from the British Dietetic Association said people should eat a range of fruit and vegetables too.

And they said some drinks, particularly dairy-based smoothies, were high in calories.

The British Dietetic Association issued a note of caution: "Small quantities of fruit juice are a helpful way to get more vitamins, but the British diet is not particularly low in vitamin C.

"If you look at a typical serving size, you are getting a lot of calories very quickly. As being overweight is more of a public health problem than a shortage of vitamin C, people need to view these drinks with caution."

Dr Phillips said fruit juices only count as one portion a day, no matter how much someone drank, because the aim was to encourage people to eat a variety of fruit and vegetables to get a range of nutrients.

"It's fine to have it as one of your portions, but it can't count as all five - no matter how much you drink." BBC 1/26/05

Steve - We have been saying this for so long. Juice is not a replacement for fruits and vegetables. Fruit juice is instantly absorbed as sugar (the meat/fiber of a fruit or vegetable, which is removed in juice, greatly slows down the rate in which the fruit/vegetable turns into sugar).

Public 'back alternative therapy'

The UK-based survey revealed 68% of 1,000 people questioned had faith in alternative therapies, such as herbal medicine and naturopathy.

One in four thought western medicine was the only way to treat health problems, the survey found.

The findings come at a time when complementary therapies are becoming more popular than ever.

Britons spend £130m a year on alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and reflexology, and that is expected to rise by £70m over the next four years.

Their popularity has prompted the UK government to pledge £900,000 to fund the regulation of some complementary medicine. BBC News 1/26/05

Steve - We are seeing the same numbers in the United States. Alternative, complementary, integrative, or "whatever you want to call it" therapies are here to stay.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Fat type more important than quantity in cutting CV deaths

The type of dietary fats consumed by middle-aged men may be more important than reducing total fat intake to lower the risk of dying from heart disease, suggests a study out yesterday.

Replacing foods high in saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats has long been recommended for a healthier heart, but researchers from the University of Kuopio in Finland say that few studies have provided scientific support for this advice.

David E. Laaksonen and colleagues assessed the dietary intake of linoleic acid (a liquid polyunsaturated fatty acid abundant in plant oils like flaxseed and linseed) and total polyunsaturated fatty acid intake with cardiovascular and overall rates of death in 1,551 middle-aged men living in eastern Finland.

"Middle-aged men with proportions of serum linoleic acid, omega-6 fatty acids, and especially PUFA in the upper third were up to three times less likely to die of cardiovascular disease than men with proportions in the lower third,” write the researchers in the 24 January issue of Archives of Internal Medicine (165, pp193-199).

The study lends further support to the trend of formulating with omega-3 and omega-6 ingredients.

"Dietary fat quality thus seems more important than fat quantity in the reduction of cardiovascular disease mortality in middle-aged men," conclude the researchers.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Pycnogenol may help children manage asthma

Children with mild to moderate asthma who took supplements of the pine bark extract Pycnogenol saw improved lung function and a significant decrease in asthma symptoms, report researchers.

The study, published in the November/December issue of the Journal of Asthma (41(8), pp825-32), found that 60 children aged six to 18 years old were able to significantly reduce or discontinue their use of rescue inhalers more often than the placebo group.

The study also showed a significant reduction of inflammatory mediators called leukotrienes, which cause inflammation and bronchi constriction commonly associated with asthma.

Pycnogenol, proprietary mixture of water-soluble bioflavonoids extracted from French maritime pine, is known to have potent antioxidant activity and anti-inflammatory properties. These are thought to combat the inflammatory processes of the bronchi that cause them to constrict and swell, making breathing difficult for asthmatics.

Previous studies have shown the supplement to be effective in decreasing asthma symptoms among adults, as well as helping a number of other inflammatory conditions.

In the new research, Pycnogenol showed benefits on a number of different parameters. Breathing improved after only one month and continued with further treatment, and the severity of asthma symptoms also decreased the longer participants took the supplement.

Pycnogenol also dramatically reduced and in several cases eliminated the children's dependence on a rescue inhaler, which is used to rapidly dilate the bronchi during an asthma attack.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Magnesium deficiency may contribute to osteoporosis rise

Prolonged magnesium deficiency leads to osteoporosis in rats, finds new research, which could present a warning to many populations not getting adequate levels of the mineral through their diets.

The scientists from Tel-Aviv University and the University of Luebeck in Germany compared rats fed a magnesium-deficient diet daily with rats fed a diet with adequate levels of the mineral over a period of one year.

The mean bone density of the vertebral bone and the femoral region bone was significantly higher in the control group than in the magnesium deficient group B. The researchers also found indicators of osteoporosis, according to the report in the December issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition (vol 23, no 6, 704S-711S).

BCM - Many of you know that I have been suggesting magnesium since I began practicing nutrition. Finally, we are beginning to see people take notice of how importnant this mineral is for almost every bodily function :)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

New U.S. Dietary Guidelines: Minsky Says More Of The Same

According to Chicago’s most popular Nutrition Counselor, Bonnie Minsky, while a few very positive changes (reducing refined carbohydrates, consuming less sodium, consuming more fruits and vegetables, avoiding trans-fats, meeting crucial vitamin/mineral requirements, and promoting more exercise) were recommended, the Dietary Guidelines for 2005 still reek of political and financial motivation.

The Department of Health and Human Services created the 2005 Dietary Guidelines based upon the recommendations of a handpicked expert panel. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, of the thirteen selected committee members, seven have or had financial relationships with industry groups such as the Sugar Association, National Dairy Council, and Procter & Gamble. While the government should be commended for suggesting increased consumption of whole grains and reduced amount of refined grain consumption, they single out whole wheat everywhere in their literature as the whole grain example. Is it coincidence that the committee chairwoman was nominated by the Wheat Foods Council? In addition, the Dietary Guidelines increased the amount of suggested dairy servings daily. Coincidence? Minsky thinks not.

Others in the food industry echo Minsky’s opinion. “As an issue, there’s few that’s bigger,” said Gene Grabowski, a former vice president of the Grocery Manufacturers of America. “Every aisle of the supermarket has a lobbyist in town,” says food-industry consultant Jeff Nedelman. Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University says “creating dietary guidelines is political – from start to finish. It’s science politics. It’s politics politics. It’s corporate politics.”

Commenting on the specifics of the Dietary Guideline’s 1600-calorie adult weight loss plan, Minsky believes that most of her clients would gain weight consuming the equivalent of 13 carbohydrate servings daily (six grain, 3-4 vegetable, and four fruit).

According to Minsky, lowering recommendations of essential oils and meat/poultry/fish as the government guidelines recommend, may cause blood sugar imbalances, energy lows, and inability to repair cell damage. With copious evidence-based research for the benefits olive oil and fish, it is essential to get some of each daily. Is it a coincidence that not one individual sitting on the committee was represented by the fish or essential oil groups.

On the heels of the Dietary Guidelines, the new Food Pyramid will be released shortly. If it is more of the same, as Minsky suspects, it will create more, not less, obesity in the United States. Thus, Minsky has created an alternative, entitled Circle of Health Food Chart. Scaled to an average dinner plate, Minsky feels it exhibits exactly what is required to maintain normal weight, and most importantly, optimal health. In addition, the Circle of Health plan encompasses a simple how-to, in which every version of the Dietary Guidelines has failed to accomplish. Circle of Health can be viewed at

Nutritional Concepts 1/20/2005

EU bid to end junk food ads for children

The European food industry was warned today to stop advertising junk food to children within a year or face a clampdown.

The European Union may resort to legislation if the companies do not make sufficient efforts to tackle the problem.

EU health and consumer affairs commissioner Markos Kyprianou said urgent action was needed to tackle obesity in Europe, particularly with children.

He said Brussels would step in if the industry failed to regulate itself on the issue.

He said: "The signs from the industry are very encouraging, very positive.

"But if this doesn’t produce satisfactory results, we will proceed to legislation.

The Scotsman 1/20/2005

BCM - The same thing should be happening in the United States, but instead, we let the food industry dictate to us what the 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines should be. The only way the food industry will change in the US is if the consumer hits them where it hurts...their pocketbook.