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Articles from 2009 In January


HFCS-Mercury Study Flawed Says Scientific Firm

SAN FRANCISCO–Recently published studies citing mercury contamination of high fructose corn syrup offered by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, (“Not So Sweet: Missing Mercury and High Fructose Corn Syrup,”) and Environmental Health (“Mercury from chlor-alkali plants: measured concentrations in food product sugar,” Dufault et al, 2009) may not hold up to scientific scrutiny says ChemRisk, Inc.

The Corn Refiners Association asked the consulting firm, which specializes in human and ecological risk assessment and risk analysis of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, to look at the studies in question. ChemRisk reported, that among other factors:

  • The IATP report and Environmental Health article it references fall well below standards for proper scientific research and published literature.
  • The authors of both publications provide incomplete data and misleading conclusions.
  • Methods described by the authors deviate from standard procedure in testing for mercury.
  • The authors ignore important distinctions between organic and other forms of mercury and their implications for assessing human health risk.
  • Even if it were assumed that the mercury content found in the extremely limited sampling of foods and beverages was representative, the amounts are far lower than levels of concern set by government agencies. (The average concentration for the 17 samples with detectable levels was only 128 parts per trillion. EPA sets limits for mercury in drinking water at two parts per billion.)
  • The authors assume that the total mercury they detected in a questionably small sampling of consumer foods is primarily the result of high fructose corn syrup; an assumption that has not been properly tested or validated. The recipes for the items studied may have had multiple sources of potential contamination.

Because of this, the report stated “To imply that there is a safety concern to consumers based on the findings presented is both incorrect and irresponsible.”

Educating Female Shoppers About Immunity & Detox

With their increasingly demanding lifestyles, women today simply can’t afford to get sick. Yet, seemingly unbeknownst to many women, poor diet, stress, aging and environmental pollutants are a few of the many factors fighting against them, impairing their immune system and causing inflammation, one of the leading causes of poor health.

Possibly of greater concern is that less than half of women fully credit their immune system as being their body’s most important defense against preventing illness. Furthermore, being proactive about maintaining health in general is challenging for many women, as one-third of them indicate their 24-hours-a-day, seven-day-a-week lifestyle is having a negative impact on their health.

The Awareness Gap

The immune system is the body’s first line of defense against a whole range of diseases and conditions. A weakened immune system often is a precursor to inflammation. If the immune system remains in an impaired state for any period of time, inflammation can become chronic, leading to a vast array of health conditions such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease and even cancer.

While more women are getting the message about the importance of detoxification in boosting immunity and thereby reducing inflammation, gaps still exist. More than three-quarters (82 percent) of women are aware of the term “detoxification,” up from about two-thirds (69 percent) in 2002. However, only four in 10 women look for ways to detoxify their body to improve their overall health. While the desire to detoxify the body spans a woman’s lifetime, the youngest generation, Gen Y, shows higher inclination to search for ways to do so (Figure 1).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As many as one in 10 consumers suffer from an autoimmune related health condition and prevalence is set to grow. Research from the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) shows only 7 percent of women self-report a need to boost immunity, when, in fact, the numbers may be significantly higher.

Two lifestyle factors—lack of sleep and stress—play a large role in diminished immunity. While women may report low immune problems, they are far more likely to understand the effects of these two factors on inflammation within the body and, more importantly, on their overall health. Approximately one-third of women feel the amount of stress in their life and their lack of sleep is causing increased inflammation in their body (Figure 2).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digestive Woes

The digestive system plays a large role in a person’s ability to detoxify the body and promote immunity. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is home to approximately 100 trillion microorganisms (prebiotics and probiotics), which help promote normal GI function, systemic metabolism and immune function.

Modern diets are deficient in essential microorganisms due to over-processing and sterilization of the food supply. In addition, frequent ingestion of chlorinated water, antibiotics and other medications, along with low-fiber, high-sugar diets, deplete much of the positive bacteria (probiotics) in the digestive system. It is not surprising, then, that nearly one-half (54.4 million) of all U.S. households are currently managing some type of digestive problem.

Approximately three out of five women rate digestive problems as very to extremely harmful to their overall health. In fact, more than one-third of women admit they often look for ways to remove the build-up and toxins in their digestive system.

Probiotic supplementation is one way to increase the amount of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. However, NMI found only 6 percent of women use probiotic supplements. It appears women are opting, instead, for food with probiotics. More than one-quarter (26 percent) of women agree it is important for their retail store to carry foods enriched with probiotics.

Thanks to emerging encapsulation science, probiotic enrichment is becoming more prevalent across a range of food categories, including yogurt, cereal and bread, allowing the benefits of probiotics to reach a much wider audience.

While much of the focus on detoxification has been on trying to counteract the effects of toxins already present in the body, a number of women are also choosing to avoid toxins altogether as part of living healthier. Usage of organic foods and beverages is one such method women are using to lessen the amount of toxins they consume. In fact, many women report they started using organic foods and beverages to avoid pesticides, genetically modified ingredients, hormones and/or antibiotics.

Steering clear of allergens in foods is another way consumers are lowering their body’s toxicity, prompting the growth of dairy-free and gluten-free products. The recent economic downturn, however, may affect women’s ability to make these healthier choices, as more than one-third of women have decreased their use of specialty foods and one out of five indicate they have cut back on usage of natural and organic foods and beverages due to the recent economic conditions.

As women are becoming more aware of the negative health implications of inflammation in the body, they have become increasingly aware of the importance of detoxification in combating it.

Immune health, vitality positioning, detoxification and anti-inflammation are fast-emerging as key drivers in the health and wellness marketplace prompting the rise of targeted functional and fortified foods, “detoxifying” spa programs, heavy metal, liver and kidney cleanses, and dietary supplement regimens to address these issues. Major companies channeling resources and efforts into this area can be proactive in meeting these new health challenges.

Steve French is managing partner at The Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), a strategic consulting, market research and business development firm specializing in the health, wellness and sustainability marketplace. For more information on NMI’s services or proprietary research tools, contact French at steve.french@NMIsoluions.com or visit NMIsolutions.com.

More Problems with Contaminated Peanuts

WASHINGTON–In addition to the recent FDA announcement that Peanut Corporation of America’s peanut processing plant in Blakely, GA, found Salmonella typhimurium contamination in some of its products, another prior problem with the company’s peanut butter ingredients has surfaced. Last September, a shipment of peanuts from the same plant linked to the Salmonella outbreak was held at the United States/Canada border because it contained a “filthy, putrid or decomposed substance, or is otherwise unfit for food,” (the problem later identified as metal fragments). The shipment was logged into FDA’s Oasis system, which is designed to prevent shipments into the United States of unsafe foreign products, but never was tested by federal inspectors, according to government records.

Meanwhile, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has announced the first public hearing on the Salmonella outbreak, with a focus on the Georgia peanut processing plant at the center of the investigation. Stewart Parnell, president of Peanut Corporation of America, as well representatives of two labs the company used for testing in-house products that had initially shown up positive for Salmonella.

The FDA website offers updates on the investigation including a list of recalled products and other information.

Nutrition of Blue Honeysuckle Berry Studied

TAIWAN—A recent article in NaturalNews reported that the blue honeysuckle berry is making a name for itself as a new superfood due to its tasty flavor and high concentration of high amounts of vitamin C and bioactive flavonoids.

The article cited a number of studies, including one that found blue honeysuckle berries contained the highest level of antioxidants compared to blueberries, mulberries, juneberries, black currants and blackberries.

 

Dairy Producers Feeling Economic Crunch

PHOENIX—Industry analysts are saying a drop in milk prices and high feed and fuel costs have caused U.S. dairy producers to take large losses and sell off cows.

As reported by FLEXNEWS, industry sources attending the 2009 Cattle Industry Annual Convention & NCBA Trade Show said an abundance of dairy products worldwide and a slowdown in domestic and international sales caused a sharp drop in milk prices in the latter half of 2008. High costs for feed and fuel are also impacting this situation. The drop in sales was largely the result of weak global economies; however, sales to China also slowed as a result of the tainted milk scandal last year.

Small Was Big in 2008

CHICAGO—Mintel Menu Insights reports that, during 2008, “mini food,” value pricing and lighter fare were the big foodservice trends. The impetus for these developments was likely a combination of the struggling economy and increased nutrition labeling legislation.

“2008 was an extremely difficult year for the restaurant industry. Many Americans were trying to save money by going out to eat less, so restaurants were looking for new ways to attract diners,” said Maria Caranfa, director, Mintel Menu Insights. “Many foodservice establishments focused on providing targeted value, the exact food people wanted at prices they could afford.”

Caranfa predicts that this “downsizing” trend will continue into 2009.

Omega-3s Relieve Depression in Menopausal Women

QUEBEC CITY—Omega-3 supplements are effective for treating common menopause-related mental health problems, according to a study was published in the February issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers from the Faculty of Medicine at Laval University recruited 120 women age 40 to 55 and divided them into two groups. The first group took three gel capsules containing a total of 1 gram of EPA, an omega-3 fatty acid of marine origin, daily for eight weeks; the second group followed the same protocol, but took gel capsules containing sunflower oil without EPA.

Test results revealed that omega-3s significantly improved the condition of women suffering symptoms of psychological distress and mild depression. No positive effect was observed among a small group of women with more severe depressive symptoms.

"The differences we observed between the two groups are noteworthy," the researchers wrote. “Especially considering that omega-3s have very few side effects and are beneficial to cardiovascular health."

Scientists Decipher Sorghum Genome

WASHINGTON—An international team of scientists have mapped the genome of sorghum, a drought-tolerant crop and important food and biofuel source. The findings appear in the Jan. 29 issue of Nature.

As reported by Reuters, sorghum is one of the world's leading cereals, along with corn, wheat, oats and barley, and can thrive in hot, dry conditions other crops cannot tolerate.

Researchers said the discovery may help to create more drought-tolerant types and provide a map to genetically engineer and improve other crops.

"This is an important step on the road to the development of cost-effective biofuels made from non-food plant fiber," said Anna Palmisano, the U.S. Department of Energy's associate director of science for biological and environmental research. "Sorghum is an excellent candidate for biofuels production, with its ability to withstand drought and prosper on more marginal land. The fully sequenced genome will be an indispensable tool for researchers seeking to develop plant variants that maximize these benefits."

Low-Fat Dairy May Benefit Blood Pressure

NAVARRA, Spain—A recent study found intake of low-fat dairy products was inversely associated with blood pressure in an older population at high cardiovascular risk, suggesting a possible protective effect against hypertension (Br J Nutr. 2009;101(1):59-67). A statistically significant inverse association between low-fat dairy product intake and systolic blood pressure was observed in a 12-month longitudinal analysis. In the longitudinal analysis, the adjusted systolic and diastolic blood pressure were significantly lower in the highest quintile of low-fat dairy product intake and -1.8, whereas the point estimates for the difference in diastolic blood pressure indicated a modest non-significant inverse association.

MRI Now NSF GMP

OGDEN, Utah—Mineral Resources International (MRI) received GMP (good manufacturing practice) certification from NSF International, following a complete audit of the MRI facilities and practices. Kris McDonald, MRI’s quality assurance director and laboratory manager, stated: “GMP certification with a company as prestigious as NSF International is a great honor and accomplishment. NSF International is recognized by the FDA and government agencies around the world as a leading expert in independent cGMP audits and product safety including the dietary supplement and pharmaceutical industry. We have always known that the manufacturing processes at MRI are exceptional, and now we have the certification to document it.”