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Articles from 2009 In June

EU OKs GM Maize Safety

PARMA, ItalyThe European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reconfirmed the genetically modified maize, MON 810, is "as safe as its conventional counterpart with respect to potential effects on human and animal health," reported Reuters. The insect-resistant maize, developed and marketed by Monsanto, is the only genetically modified crop as yet commercially grown in Europe.

EFSA also said MON 810 maize was "unlikely to have any adverse effect on the environment in the context of its intended uses." Those intended uses include seed for cultivation.


Eco-Atkins Diet Lowers LDL

ST. LOUISA new study shows a vegetarian version of the Atkins low-carbohydrate diet may help people lose weight and lower levels of low-density lipoprotien (LDL, or bad) cholesterol in the blood. The traditional Atkins diet consists of low carbohydrate foods and a high intake of animal protein.
Researchers from St. Michaels Hospital and the University of Toronto, in collaboration with researchers from Solae LLC, studied the effect of a modified version of the Atkins diet on both weight loss and heart disease risk factors. The study, published in the current issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, looked at weight loss and heart disease risk factors of subjects who followed a diet low in carbohydrates, but high in vegetable proteins that included soy.
Forty-seven overweight men and women with elevated blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels were given either a low carbohydrate diet where the protein came from vegetable sources, including soy, or a high carbohydrate, low-fat, lacto-ovo vegetarian diet for four weeks. Calorie restriction was similar for both groups. There was similar weight loss and lowered blood pressure in both groups; however, the low carbohydrate, higher protein diet group also saw significant reductions in LDL cholesterol and other heart disease risk factors like apolipoproteins, blood triglyceride levels and blood pressure. 
Results showed that participants who ate a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate diet high in plant-based proteins, oils and fiber lost weight and experienced improvements in blood cholesterol levels and other heart disease risk factors. These findings suggest that an eco-friendly version of the Atkins weight-loss dietstressing plant proteinsis better than a high carbohydrate weight-loss diet at reducing risk factors of heart disease.
Our study demonstrated that when a low carbohydrate diet was given using plant foods rather than the more usual animal proteins and fats, advantages were seen in cholesterol and blood pressure reduction, said Dr. David J. A. Jenkins. Soy proteins and nuts were valuable sources of protein and nuts also provided healthy oils. These foods have individually been associated with cholesterol reduction in other studies.


E. Coli Confirmed in Nestlé Cookie Dough

WASHINGTONThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in a sample of prepackaged Nestlé Toll House refrigerated cookie dough currently under recall. The contaminated sample was collected at Nestlés facility in Danville, Va., on June 25.

Nestlé issued a June 19 recall on all varieties of Nestlé TOLL HOUSE refrigerated Cookie & Brownie Dough Bar; Cookie Dough Tub; Cookie Dough Tube; Limited Edition Cookie Dough items; Seasonal Cookie Dough and Ultimates Cookie Bar Dough after the FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned consumers not to eat any varieties of prepackaged Nestlé Toll House refrigerated cookie dough due to the risk of contamination with E. coli.


Natural Solutions for Blood Pressure Control


A modifiable factor in heart attacks and stroke, high blood pressure is a great candidate for natural products intervention, as many nutrients and herbs have been studied for management of pre-hypertension and hypertension.

Blood pressure management is about the numbers. Normal blood pressure, the force blood exerts on vessel walls, is less than 120 mmHg systolic (heart beating) and less than 80 mmHg diastolic (heart relaxing). Pre-hypertension is 120-129/80-89 (systolic/diastolic). Stage 1 hypertension begins above 140/90, with stage 2 hypertension starting above 160/100.

The numbers get scary when you consider the death rate from high blood pressure rose 25.2 percent from 1995 to 2005, with the actual number of deaths rising 56.4 percent during that time frame, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Add to this about one in every three Americans has high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which also reported an estimated 90 percent of middle-aged adults will develop high blood pressure in the remainder of their lifetime.

Even scarier? Public health officials have said as much as 20 percent of the population doesnt know they have hypertension. The confusion partially results from the fact that there are no major, recognizable symptoms of hypertension alone, although the condition can lead to greater cardiovascular problems and their associated symptoms. Even more troubling, CDC reported the cause of 90 to 95 percent of hypertension cases is not known.

The good news in all these daunting stats and facts is high blood pressure is easy to discover by a health care provider, and it is highly manageable via lifestyle and dietary changes, including dietary supplements.

Dietary strategies to blood pressure management are based on low-salt, low-fat diets proven successful in scientific research. The most popular such diet is the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which is based on National Institutes of Health (NIH) studies1 and is recommended by the AHA as well as the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. DASH focuses on a reduction of sodium intake while promoting an increased intake of fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry and whole grains instead of dairy and red meat.

More recently, the Mediterranean diet, which also favors fruits, vegetables and healthy fats, has demonstrated benefits to hypertension management.2 Involving a cohort of 8,594 participants aged 20 to 95, the 2009 Spanish study showed an inverse link between fruit/vegetable intake and risk of hypertension amongst those with low olive oil consumption (<15 g/d).

Plant-based Intervention

That plants form the heart of anti-hypertension diets is a credit to their content of nutrients and phytochemicals, especially antioxidants. Much of the research on lowering blood-pressure risk and managing hypertension levels focuses on these plant compounds, in addition to various botanicals.

For starters, fruits and vegetables contain numerous vitamins and minerals, some of which have been linked to benefits to blood pressure. For instance, mineral intake is important to controlling blood pressure. The International Study of Macro- and Micro-nutrients and Blood Pressure (INTERMAP) found an inverse link between blood pressure and increased intakes of dietary calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.3 University of Helsinki, Finland, researchers looked at potassium, calcium and magnesium, concluding greater intakes of these minerals result in a more than 10 mm Hg fall in the population average of systolic and diastolic blood pressure.4

Intake of magnesium alone may help regulate blood pressure and has been inversely associated with incidence of hypertension.5 In fact, animal studies have shown magnesium deficiency can have a long-term negative effect on arterial thickness and stiffness, arterial pressure and incidence of hypertension.6

University of Ottawa, Ontario, scientists have reported magnesium's effect on blood pressure is via vascular tone modulation and impact on vasodilation and inflammation.7 Magnesium's benefit may be narrowly targeted, according to Korean researchers, who found oral magnesium supplementation (as magnesium oxide) had no effect on blood pressure in healthy adults who were diabetes-free, normotensive and had normal magnesium levels; however, supplementation did lower blood pressure in a subgroup of people with hypertension and normal magnesium levels.8

Despite the lack of dairy in the DASH and Mediterranean diets, calcium is still a necessary nutrient for decreasing the risk of hypertension. French researchers investigating more than 900 middle-aged men found consumption of dairy products and dietary calcium were both significantly and independently associated with low levels of systolic blood pressure.9 The key to calcium-rich dairy may be keeping fat content low, as Harvard researchers studying a cohort of 28,886 U.S. women found intakes of low-fat dairy products, calcium and vitamin D were each inversely associated with hypertension.10

A late 2008 study report from Harvard Medical School, Boston, confirmed previous research conclusions of an inverse relationship between plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and risk of incident hypertension in young women.11 Specifically, young women with low levels of vitamin D had a substantially higher risk of hypertension than women with sufficient levels of the vitamin.

As far as vitamins go, vitamin C is known in vascular health for its roles in collagen production and vascular flexibility. On hypertension specifically, low levels of vitamin C are concurrent with increased oxidative stress in hypertensive adults, indicating an oxidative factor in the development of hypertension.12 In fact, reducing oxidative stress appears to help manage blood pressure. Japanese researchers discovered systolic blood pressure and pulse pressure were significantly reduced in elderly patients being treated for hypertension who also took ascorbic acid (600 mg/d).13 Other research confirms this complementary pairing, as 1,000 mg/d of vitamin C added to antihypertensive therapy reduced systolic blood pressure and decreased parameters of oxidative stress in a trial out of India.14

The logical progression to combining antioxidant vitamins led researchers to the study of vitamins C and E together. In a University of Pisa, Italy, trial vitamin C (1 g/d) and vitamin E (400 IU/d) given to hypertensive men for eight weeks significantly improved flow-mediated dilation (FMD) and arterial flexibility, as well as vasodilation and oxidative stress parameters.15 Similarly, University of Chile, Santiago, research found hypertensive men taking vitamins C and E for eight weeks had significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, in addition to higher serum antioxidant capacity.16

Tocotrienol isomers of vitamin E may work on their own against hypertension. According to animal research, gamma-tocotrienol administration can reduce systolic blood pressure and improve nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity, promoting production of the vasodilator nitric oxide (NO).17

NOS synthesizes NO from L-arginine, an amino acid that has proven its own potential to reduce arterial blood pressure along with auxiliary benefits to inter-media thickness and overall endothelial function.18,19 Incidentally, vitamin-like coenzyme Q10 can protect NO from oxidative stress and was shown to reduce elevated blood pressure in a 2008 Japanese animal study.20

Given the number of micronutrients with the potential to impact blood pressure, it was only a matter of time until researchers tested multivitamin and mineral (MVM) supplements against hypertension endpoints. A Harbin Medical University, China, trial compared a low-dose MVM, a high-dose MVM, a calcium supplement and a placebo for their effects on blood pressure in obese women with increased cardiovascular disease risk, including hypertension, hyperglycemia or hyperlipemia.21 After 26 weeks of intervention, the researchers found the high-dose MVM group had significantly decreased systolic and diastolic pressure, compared to the other groups.

However, the importance of fruits, vegetables and other plants in the anti-hypertension diets is due to more than just vitamins and minerals. Flavonoids are phytochemicals with antioxidant capabilities that have been proven useful to blood pressure management. In fact, one leading researcher argued flavonoids may be more important to heart health than vitamins C and E.22

United Kingdom scientists performed a review of research on several different types of flavonoids, including those from chocolate and soy, finding some positive effects on vascular health, including blood pressure.23 However, many flavonoid classes produced insufficient data; one exception was chocolate, which significantly lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, in addition to increasing FMD after acute and chronic chocolate intake. They suggested future research in this area focus on flavonones and anthocyanins.

The star of recent flavonoid research, chocolate has enjoyed positive results in various areas of heart health, including blood pressure. However, research reviewers from Athens Medical School, Greece, reported the blood-pressure lowering effect of dark chocolate and flavonoid-rich cocoa is attributed to the flavonoids impact on increased NO bioavailability.24 A JAMA study supported this hypothesis, finding intake of 6.3 g/d of dark chocolate (30 mg of polyphenols) for 18 weeks by adults with untreated pre-hypertension or stage 1 hypertension led to decreased mean systolic and diastolic blood pressure, improved NO formation and increased antioxidant measures.25

Punctuating chocolate's impact on blood pressure, an Italian trial noted flavanol-rich dark chocolate decreased blood pressure in hypertensive men and improved FMD.26

Grapes are also rich in polyphenols, and grape-based products have helped vascular health and blood pressure via some of the same mechanisms as micronutrient aids. Made from grapes, wine is rich in polyphenols and may improve endothelial function and decrease blood pressure by reducing oxidative stress.27 In vitro work also suggests red wine polyphenols may prevent expression of pro-inflammatory factors, resulting in limited development of angiotensin II-induced hypertension and endothelial dysfunction.28 Animal research supported these mechanisms, indicating wine polyphenols decreased blood pressure by improving endothelium-dependent dilation and antioxidant status.29

While drinking more wine may appeal to many people, others may find a simpler method of consuming these polyphenols by way of grape seed extract (GSE) supplements, which have undergone scientific inquiry into benefits to blood pressure. University of California, Davis, researchers conducted a few studies on GSE (as MegaNatural BP®, from Polyphenolics) and endothelial function an arterial blood pressure. An animal-based in vitro study found MegaNatural BP produced dose-dependent relaxation in aortic rings contacted with noradrenaline.30 The team's clinical work on the GSE showed adults with metabolic syndrome who took 150 mg/d or 300 mg/d of MegaNatural BP for one month had reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure.31 Their two-month follow-up study concluded pre-hypertensive subjects who received 300 mg/d of MegaNatural BP experienced a significant decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure; the researchers theorized GSE polyphenols had a vasodilatory effect.32

A pair of Chinese studies on various diabetes-related endpoints in rats included results showing administration of GSE reduced systolic blood pressure.33 The researchers credited proanthocyanidins in GSE for this effect.

Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) are a class of flavanols found in various botanicals, including maritime pine bark and green tea. OPCs and other flavonoids in pine bark extract have demonstrated an impact on cardiovascular health, including hypertension. In a joint study from University of Arizona, Tucson, and Westfalische Wilhelms University, Germany, men taking 200 mg/d pine park extract (as Pycnogenol®, from Horphag, supplied by Natural Health Science) had a significant decrease in systolic blood pressure, compared to placebo, but the effect on diastolic pressure failed to reach significance.34 More recently, a 2008 trial out of China examined the impact of 100 mg/d of Pycnogenol on patients with hypertension, finding the extract improved endothelial function, decreased endothelin-1 concentrations and increased NO levels in plasma.35

Another pine bark extract (as Enzogenol®, from ENZO Nutraceuticals, supplied by B&D Nutritional Ingredients) underwent a 12-week pilot study by New Zealand researchers, who paired it with vitamin C and measured various cardiac parameters.36 They reported a dose of 480 mg/d pine bark extract and 240 mg/d vitamin C was associated with a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure.

Proanthocyanidins are closely related to fellow flavanol catechins, both of which are found in green tea. A University of Missouri, Columbia, research review discovered consumption of tea and its epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) appears to improve endothelial function and hypertension.37 Animal research has shown similar results, with green tea extract limiting induced hypertension in rats, by addressing oxidative damage.38 Most recently, a 2009 University of Florida, Gainesville, study involved healthy adults aged 21 to 70, who took a capsule of standardized green tea (Camilla sinesis) compounds twice daily and were tested for various cardiovascular parameters.39 After three weeks, systolic and diastolic pressures were decreased by 5 mmHg and 4 mmHG, respectively; systolic pressure remained low after three months.

Still more relief from high blood pressure may come from another class of flavonoids called anthocyanins, which are the dark pigments in many richly colored fruits and vegetables.

Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) anthocyanins given to adults for two months significantly lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in a Polish study.40

Similarly, Japanese researchers administered anthocyanins from purple corn, purple sweet potato and red radish to hypertensive rats, finding the flavonoids decreased blood pressure and heart rate.41

Tying into the Mediterranean diet on blood pressure, pomegranates are rich in anthocyanins and tannins and may help manage blood pressure. An Israeli trial found hypertensive patients taking pomegranate juice (50 mL) for just two weeks had significantly reduced systolic blood pressure and ACE activity.42 The same research team looked at long-term intervention, finding pomegranate juice consumption by hypertensive adults over a three-year period reduced systolic blood pressure by 21 percent after just one year.43 They noted there were no further reductions at three years, but pomegranate consumption did appear to improve vascular health by decreasing carotid intima-media thickness.

Fans of the Mediterranean diet will often cite the prevalence of heart-healthy olive oil, but the leaves from the olive tree have been specifically studied for benefits to hypertension care. Olive leaf extract EFLA® 943 (as Benolea®, by Frutarom) showed hypotensive effects in hypertensive rats in a Cairo University, Egypt, study.44 Researchers attributed the benefit to the extract's ability to reverse adverse vascular changes. South African scientists were able to credit triterpenoids from Greek and African and olive leaf varieties to prevention of severe hypertension and atherosclerosis in experimental animals after a six-week intervention.45 In 2008, German and Swiss researchers conducted two experiments on olive leaf extract in identical human twins aged 18 to 60 with borderline hypertension, in an effort to generate consistent data free from genetic differences.46 First, they gave twins either 500 mg/d olive leaf extract for breakfast or a placebo. In the second study, they gave twins either 500 mg/d or 1,000 mg/d olive leaf extract, or placebo. Among those taking the highest amount of extract, systolic blood pressure fell by a significant amount, while those taking the lower amount of extract saw a five-point decline in systolic pressure, and those on placebo had a two-point increase in pressure.

Another leaf-based supplement, Ginkgo biloba, has had decent results on blood pressure, but mixed results on other vascular health parameters. Per animal research, ginkgo extract can decrease salt-related elevation of blood pressure and support vasodilation.47 Similarly, another animal study reveals standardized ginkgo extract (as EGb 761) can suppress age-related increases in blood pressure.48 However more recent Japanese research found while ginkgo extract reduces blood pressure, it can also impair peripheral circulation and increase liver weight in aged hypertensive rats.49

A plant-based hypotensive diet, especially Mediterranean, would be lacking without garlic, which has performed consistently well against rising blood pressure. A 2008 meta-analysis from the University of Adelaide, South Australia, summed up 11 studies with evidence of a significant decrease (4.6 +/- 2.8 mmHg) in systolic blood pressure among subjects taking garlic, while those in a hypertensive subgroup had even greater reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.50 However, a subsequent meta-analysis by Hartford Hospital, CT, researchers concluded garlic reduced blood pressure in subjects with elevated systolic pressure, but not those with normal systolic readings.51 Still, clinical study has suggested garlic lowers both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.52

The mechanism behind garlic's benefit to blood pressure management is the focus of many recent studies. Some point to antioxidant actions toward improved blood pressure,53,54 while others credit garlic's allicin content for improved endothelial function.55 Still other research indicates different preparations of garlic can affect its results on hypertension. In early 2009, Russian researchers reported time-released garlic powder tablets are more effective for the treatment of mild and moderate arterial hypertension than are regular garlic supplements, possibly due to the greater bioavailability of the powdered form.56

Other studies have focused on aged garlic extract (AGE), with one study finding both AGE and powdered garlic reversed rising blood pressure in the animals after 10 weeks of invtervention.57 Clinical research on hypercholesterolemic men revealed 7.2 g/d AGE supplementation for six months resulted in 5.5-percent decrease in systolic blood pressure and a modest reduction in diastolic blood pressure.58 Another clinical trial showed intervention with AGE plus vitamin B1 and ginseng extract effectively lowered blood pressure in hypertensive, but not normo-tensive patients.59

Tomatoes are another Mediterranean dietary staple, and their content of the carotenoid lycopene may be central to any blood pressure benefits associated with the vegetable. In fact, research out of Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, LA, analyzed the phytochemical content of the DASH diet, using USDA food composition databases, and found DASH was much higher in lycopene and flavonols than control diets.60 Tomato extract itself was study by Israeli scientists, who reported the extract (as Lyc-O-Mato®, from Lycored) decreased both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in grade-1 hypertensive patients.61 Specifically, 250 mg/d of Lyc-O-Mato for eight-weeks decreased systolic blood pressure from 144 to 134 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure from 87.4 to 83.4 mmHg, compared to a placebo group.

Similarly, animal research has suggested fellow carotenoid astaxanthin may reduce blood pressure in hypertensive models, possibly by improving vascular elastin and arterial wall thickness, and modulating blood fluidity.62,63,64

The seasoning void in hypotensive diets that trim salt intake may well be filled by spices, which could additionally help manage blood pressure levels. The Nigella sativa seedwhich is often confused with black cumin, block onion and other similar black seedsis used as spice in many traditional Middle Eastern cultures and has been studied for hypotensive benefits. A study out of Shahrekord University of Medical Sciences, Iran, tested eight weeks of oral Nigella sativa (NS) seed extract supplement in patients with mild hypertension, finding doses of 100 or 200 mg/d of seed extract resulted in significant, dose-depent reductions in both systolic an diastolic blood pressure, compared to placebo, while also improving cholesterol profiles.65

Fat and Protein

Dietary intervention for hypertension requires low-fat foods, but the type of fat is the most important guiding factor, as even the Mediterranean diet is loaded with fish, a source of both protein and essential fatty acids (EFAs).

Higher consumption of fish, salad and cereals in adolescence has a positive effect on diastolic blood pressure and establishes a front against chronic disease, according to Australian researchers.66 Another Australian study found higher consumption of fish had vascular protective effects.67 Similarly, Italian research noted hypertensive adults who made a long-term dietary change to consume more fish and vegetables had better blood pressure management.68 A 2007 research review reported consumption of fish oil and its omega-3 EFAs can have a small but significant benefit to blood pressure, particularly among adults with hypertension.69 Epidemiological data from the aforementioned INTERMAP trial indicated an inverse relationship between total omega-3 intake from food and diastolic and systolic blood pressures, with the greatest impact from long-chain omega-3 intake from fish.70

Many hypotensive diets place tough limitations on meat intake, relative to American gastronomy. Offering flexibility on protein intake may help improve adherence to DASH, Mediterranean and similar diets, according to researchers at Brigham and Womens Hospital, Boston.71 They found slightly raising the level of healthy unsaturated fats and protein in these diets achieves similar blood pressure benefits, but make it easier to follow the diets long-term.

As in the case of calcium, dairy products may be limited in blood-pressure-lowering diets, but the peptides in milk and whey may help manage hypertension. Such peptides may inhibit vasoconstrictor enzymes such as angiotensin-1-convering enzyme (ACE), and positively impact vasodilation.72 Specifically, tetrapeptides from milk protein (alpha-lactorphin and beta-lactoglobulin) administered to spontaneously hypertensive rats improved vascular relaxation, influencing both endothelial function and endothelium-independent relaxation.73 A 2006 trial conducted at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis concluded six weeks of whey-derived peptide supplementation in human subjects resulted in significant reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, in addition to improvements in LDL cholesterol and inflammatory markers.74 Long-term intake of the ACE-inhibiting peptides isoleucine-proline-proline (IPP) and valine-proline-proline (VPP) slows the development of hypertension.75 A 2008 meta-analysis out of Norway confirmed peptides from such protein sources significantly lower both systolic and diastolic pressure, with the majority of studies using IPP and VPP.76 Then in 2009, DSM published safety research on its tensVida milk protein hydrolysate containing the lactotripeptide IPP, showing the ingredient is safe for use as intended after passing a 90-day repeated-dose oral toxicity study in rats, as well as several genotoxicity tests.77 Still other research suggests opioid receptors may be involved in the actions of tetrapeptides on diastolic and systolic blood pressure.78

Despite the potential for dairy-based peptides to manage hypertension, soy protein maintains the plant-focus of hypotensive diets and still offers improvement to blood pressure levels, in addition to its other well-known heart health benefits.

Analysis of data from the Shanghai Womens Health Study concluded long-term consumption of soy protein was inversely related to both systolic and diastolic pressure, with the association growing stronger with age.79 Also, substituting soy nuts for non-soy protein could significantly reduce blood pressure in both normotensive and hypertensive women, according to research from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, which attributed the benefit to improved endothelial function and reduction in inflammation.80 Likewise, adding 10 g/kg/d of soy powder (31-percent isoflavones) to a high-fat diet can decrease oxidative damage, inhibit increases in blood pressure and influence NO production for endothelial benefit.81 Of soy isoflavones, genistein has improved aortic endothelial-derived NO, alleviating hypertension in the rats.82

Fermented soy, called natto, contains ACE-inhibiting substances that have antihypertensive effects.83 Natto has also been shown to suppress intimal thickening in the arteries. Nattokinase, may contribute to blood pressure management by breaking up blood fibrin, a protein involved in clotting. Proprietary research from Japan Bio-Science Laboratories on its NSK-SD® nattokinase ingredient attributed vascular benefits to the enzyme's effects on blood coagulation, blood flow, and hypertension in adults with untreated high blood pressure. In a 2008 study from Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea, untreated hypertensive adults (systolic=130-159 mmHg) who took nattokinase (2,000 fibrin-degrading units/capsule) for eight weeks had significant reduction in systolic (-5.5 mmHg) and diastolic (-2.8 mmHg) blood pressure.84

Dubbed a "silent killer," high blood pressure does not have to exact its cruel cardiovascular consequences, as numerous dietary and lifestyle modifications have proven useful in limiting development and progression of hypertension. Further, dietary ingredients, such as vitamins, minerals, fats, protein and plants, can boost these hypotensive efforts.

References on the next page...

"Blood Pressure" References


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Draft Guidance on Pistachio, Salmonella Risk Issued

WASHINGTONThe Food and Drug Administration announced the availability of a draft guidance for industry, Guidance for Industry: Measures to Address the Risk for Contamination by Salmonella Species in Food Containing a Pistachio-Derived Product as an Ingredient.
When finalized, the guidance is intended to clarify for manufacturers who produce foods containing a pistachio-derived product as an ingredient that there is a risk that Salmonella species may be present in the incoming pistachio-derived product, and to recommend measures to address that risk.
Submit written or electronic comments concerning the draft guidance by August 28, 2009.

EFSA OK's Chromium Picolinate Safety Dossier

PURCHASE, N.Y.—Nutrition 21 announced it received notice that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued a positive safety assessment regarding the use of chromium picolinate in dietary supplements. The assessment is an initial step in the procedure for formal allowance to use chromium picolinate in dietary supplements in the European Union.

Nutrition 21, which produces Chromax® chromium picolinate, retained Cantox Health Sciences International to assist in the submission of the safety dossier to EFSA. The company is already working on business development projects with potential strategic customers to distribute Chromax throughout Europe, pending formal EFSA approval.

Onions Layer on the Flavor


Consider the onion. This humble vegetable adds layers of color, texture, nutrition and flavor to many prepared foods, from soups and stews to onion rings and pizzas.
According to Wayne Mininger, executive vice president, National Onion Association, Greeley, CO, "Nearly 20% of U.S. bulb onions are utilized in some sort of value-added, processor-managed food product."
Following is an overview of the humble, yet essential, vegetable.

Onion production
Onions constitute the third largest fresh vegetable industry in the United States and are grown in 20 states from coast to coast. Idaho, eastern Oregon, Washington and California are the leading production areas. The National Onion Association estimates that fewer than 1,000 U.S. farmers plant more than 142,000 acres of onions each year.
Per capita consumption of onions in the United States has more than doubled in the past 25 years, with Americans consuming nearly 20 pounds of onions annually.

Onion types and colors
A domestic supply of onions is available yearround. Their flavor is determined by many factors, including genetics, planting location, soil and temperature.
Onions come in different colors and sizes, but are from the same species. On average, dry bulb onions are 89% water and 8% to 9% soluble sugars (this amount varies based on the time of year). Minerals, proteins and sulfur compounds make up the remaining composition.
The distinctive flavor and aroma of onions and other allium family members (like garlic) come from the sulfur compounds. These compounds are also responsible for the tear response created when cutting an onion. In raw or partially cooked onions, these compounds can mask sugars and dominate the flavor profile.
Fresh onions, available from March to August, have thin, light-colored skins. They have more water content and typically taste mild to sweet. The term sweet onion is used to describe fresh onions. Fresh onions have a mild flavor and are ideal for raw and lightly cooked dishes.
Storage onions, available August to April, have multiple layers of thick, dark-colored, papery skin. Being low in water content, storage onions have higher amounts of solids. They are the best choice for soups, stews, and caramelized or roasted applications.
Long cook times will dampen the flavor of all onions, so it is important to use stronger-flavored onions for caramelizing, roasting and in soups or other dishes that have lengthy cook times. Avoid high heat, as this will cause the onion to develop a bitter flavor. Low heat over a long time will diminish an onions strong flavor and enhance its natural sweetness.
Both fresh and storage onions are available in yellow, red and white. Yellow onions are all-purpose and popular. In fact, 87% of the U.S. onion crop is comprised of yellow varieties. Most of the sweet varieties that carry a trade name are yellow.

Red onions are a favorite for salads and sandwiches. Their color comes from the common plant pigment anthocyanidin. Mostly used for raw applications or for grilling, red onions tend to be a bit coarse in texture. About 8% of the U.S. onion crop is red. Demand for red onions in foodservice has grown in recent years. White onions are commonly associated with Mexican or Southwest cuisine.

Onion sizes
Onions range in size from less than 1 inch in diameter (creamers and boilers) to more than 4.5 inches in diameter (super colossal). The most common sizes of onions sold in the United States are medium (2 to 3.25 inches in diameter) and jumbo (3 to 3.75 inches in diameter).

Onion nutrition and health benefits
Onions not only provide flavor, they also provide health-promoting phytochemicals and nutrients, The flavonoid quercetin, a plant-based phytochemical, is found in generous amounts in onions. Quercetin appears to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Some research shows that quercetin can help protect the body against many chronic diseases, including cataracts, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Good sources of quercetin include apple skin, onion, tea, red wine and other foods. Scientists have shown the absorption of quercetin from onions is twice that from tea and more than three times that from apples.
Another naturally occurring chemical in onion is known as organosulfur compound, which is linked to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
Onions are an important source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and folic acid (see the nutrition chart below). They also contain calcium, iron and have a high protein quality (ratio of mg amino acid per gram protein). Onions are free of sodium, cholesterol and fat. A serving of onion has 45 calories. One medium onion, or 148 grams, is considered to be one serving.


Nutrition Facts

  Serving Size 1 Medium Onion (148 g)

  Amount Per Serving

  Calories  45                             Calories from Fat 0

                                                                                       % Daily Value*

  Total Fat  0g                                                            0%

           Saturated Fat  0g                                            0%

           Trans Fat  0g

  Cholesterol  0mg

  Sodium  5mg

  Total Carbohydrate  11g                                        4%

            Dietary Fiber  3g                                          12%

            Sugars  9g

  Protein  1g

  Vitamin A  0%                    *                Vitamin C  20%

  Calcium  4%                       *               Iron  4%

  Potassium 190 g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

  Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your

  calorie needs:

                                   Calories:           2,000          2,500

Source: Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 2008


Packaging and precut and processed formats
Dry bulb onions are commonly packaged in:
 Bags (2, 3, 5 lb pre-packs, 10, 25 and 50 lb.)
 Cartons (40 and 50 lb.)

Processed fresh onions are available in a variety of cuts, including:
 Whole peeled
 Custom cuts and various packaging sizes are also available.

Processed frozen onions (IQF) are commonly available in the following cuts:

Onion handling and storage tips
The following are tips for receiving and storing onions:

 Onions should feel firm and dry, but may have loose outer skins.

 Onions should be free of gray or black mold and should not have any visible sprouting.

 Always make sure the number of bags or cartons delivered matches the delivery invoice, and the onions are the correct color and size ordered.

 Always handle onions with care. Do not drop onions, as this can cause bruising.

 Store onions in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area.

 Bagged or boxed onions should be stored at least one foot away from walls and other pallets to allow proper air movement. Do not wrap onions in plastic or store in plastic bags. A lack of circulation will reduce shelf life.

 Do not store onions with potatoes or other produce items that release moisture.

 Keep onions out of direct sunlight.

Cut onions will keep for several days if sealed in plastic bags or containers and refrigerated.

Tips to avoid tearing
When an onion is pierced, a series of rapid chemical reactions takes place. In technical terms, the enzyme alliinase begins to react with the substrates known as Alk(en)yl-L-Cysteine Sulfoxides (ACSO). One of these ACSOs is called 1-propenyl L cysteine sulfoxide. When it reacts with alliinase, the reaction produces 1-propenesulfenic acid, pyruvic acid, and ammonia. The 1-propensulfenic acid then reacts with an enzyme called lachrymatory factor synthase, which generates propanethial sulfoxide. This compound reacts with the nerve cell membrane of the eye to form sulfuric acid, and causes tearing.
To reduce tearing: Chill onions for about 30 minutes before cutting. Always use a sharp knife and use quick, precise movements. Begin cutting at top. Leave the root end intact as long as possible as it contains the highest concentration of sulfur.


Kimberly Reddin is Director of Public and Industry Relations for the National Onion Association. In this role, Kim coordinates consumer, retail and foodservice promotion activities for the third largest fresh vegetable industry in the United States. The National Onion Association is the official organization representing growers, shippers, brokers and commercial representatives of the U.S. onion industry. In the last two decades, the association has played a role in increasing per capita onion consumption by 63 percent.
As a fourth generation agriculturalist, Kim is passionate about her roots. In her youth, she was actively involved in a purebred cattle operation as well as her familys grain and hay crops. She earned a bachelors degree in Animal Science/Agribusiness. She has worked in human resources, sales and marketing for several organizations. Kim is now combining her layers of experience to develop promotional and educational materials that encourage consumption of onions.
For more information about onions, visit .


Central Coast Nutraceuticals Fined $1.3 Million

PHOENIXCentral Coast Nutraceuticals Inc (CCN) must pay $1,375,000 in fines stemmed from a consumer fraud lawsuit that alleged deceptive online sales practices. The company was ordered to pay $1 million in civil penalties to the state of Arizona, $350,000 in consumer restitution and $25,000 to cover the states legal and investigative costs

The record settlement came after Arizona attorney general Terry Goddard received hundreds of consumer complaints. Arizona brought the lawsuit against CCN and its owner, Graham Gibson, of Phoenix in December 2008. Goddard alleged CCN used a variety of deceptive tactics marketing low-cost risk-free" trial offers of health supplements.

According to the complaints, consumers who purchased the low-cost risk-free trial offers of CCNs health supplements were also charged for costly products and services that they did not request. These included pre-selected up-sell products that the consumer had to actively de-select in the online order form to avoid being charged. When consumers tried to contact CCN regarding the unauthorized charges, they often faced hold times longer than an hour and their e-mails never received a response.

In addition to the financial settlement, the agreement prohibits CCN from violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. It also requires the company to clearly disclose to consumers the consequences involved with ordering a trial product from CCN.

Walnuts Reduce LDL Cholesterol

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Harvard researchers found high-walnut-enriched diets significantly decreased total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol during short-term trials (Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;90(1):56-63). Literature databases were searched for published trials that compared a specifically walnut-enhanced diet with a control diet. Researchers conducted a random-effects meta-analysis of weighted mean differences (WMDs) of lipid outcomes. Thirteen studies representing 365 participants were included in the analysis. Diets lasted four to 24 weeks with walnuts providing 10 to 24 percent of total calories.

When compared with control diets, diets supplemented with walnuts resulted in a significantly greater decrease in total cholesterol and in LDL-cholesterol concentrations. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and triglycerides were not significantly affected by walnut diets more than with control diets. Other results reported in the trials indicated walnuts provided significant benefits for certain antioxidant capacity and inflammatory markers and had no adverse effects on body weight.

Scientists Complete Melon Genome

COLLEGE STATION, TexasScientists with Texas AgriLife Research have mapped the melon genome with hundreds of DNA markers, which means tastier and healthier melons are on the horizon.

For the study, the Deltex ananas melon was crossed with a wild melon called TGR 1551. More than 100 of the offspring from that cross were grown in the AgriLife Research greenhouses. DNA was extracted from leaf tissue collected 21 days after planting. Results from the tests were integrated into partial maps created by other researchers.

In addition to the complete map, the researchers located genetic markers linked to fruit sugars, ascorbic acid and male sterility, which is useful for developing hybrid varieties. The genetic map will be helpful for future studies in identifying fruit sweetness, quality, size, shape and resistance to disease.

"This will help us anchor down some of the desirable genes to develop better melon varieties," said the researchers. "We can identify specific genes for higher sugar content, disease resistance and even drought tolerance."