New Study: Mediterranean, Fasting & Paleo Diets Improve Weight Loss and Health

There were some weight loss and health benefits for overweight adults who followed the Mediterranean, Intermittent Fasting and Paleo diets, though adherence to the diets dropped off considerably during the one-year study, new University of Otago research shows.

Intermittent fasting – whereby participants limit their energy intake to about 25 per cent of their usual diet (500kcal for women and 600kcal for men) on two self-selected days per week, led to slightly more weight loss than the other diets. The Mediterranean diet also improved blood sugar levels.

Co-lead author Dr Melyssa Roy, a Research Fellow in the Department of Medicine, says the amount of weight loss was modest – on average two to four kilograms for the 250 participants, but for those choosing the fasting or Mediterranean diets, clinically significant improvements in blood pressure were also seen.

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The aim of the research was to examine how effective all three diets were in a “real world” setting, where participants self-selected which diet they wished to follow, without any ongoing support from a dietitian.

Dr Roy says the evidence shows that for some people the Mediterranean, fasting or paleo (Paleolithic) diets can be “healthful, beneficial ways to eat”.

“This work supports the idea that there isn’t a single ‘right’ diet – there are a range of options that may suit different people and be effective. In this study, people were given dietary guidelines at the start and then continued with their diets in the real world while living normally. About half of the participants were still following their diets after a year and had experienced improvements in markers of health.

“Like the Mediterranean diet, intermittent fasting and paleo diets can also be valid healthy eating approaches – the best diet is the one that includes healthy foods and suits the individual.”

The Mediterranean diet encouraged consumption of fruit, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds and olive oil with moderate amounts of fish, chicken, eggs and diary and red meat once a week or less.

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The paleo diet consists of mostly less-processed foods with an emphasis on eating fruit and vegetables, animal proteins, nuts, coconut products and extra-virgin olive oil. While “original” Paleo diets strictly exclude all legumes, dairy and grains, this study used a modified version including some dairy as well as up to one serving daily of legumes and grain-based food.

Co-lead author Dr Michelle Jospe, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Medicine, says the results showed people found the Mediterranean diet to be the easiest to adhere to.

“Our participants could follow the diet’s guidelines more closely than the fasting and paleo diets and were more likely to stay with it after the year, as our retention rates showed.”

Most of the 250 participants (54 per cent) chose the fasting diet, while 27 per cent chose the Mediterranean and 18 per cent the paleo. After 12 months, the Mediterranean diet had the best retention rate with 57 per cent of participants continuing, with 54 per cent still fasting and 35 per cent still on the paleo diet.

After 12 months, the average weight loss was 4.0kg for those choosing the fasting diet, 2.8kg on the Mediterranean diet and 1.8kg on the paleo diet.

Reduced systolic blood pressure was observed among those participating in the fasting and Mediterranean diets, together with reduced blood sugar levels in the Mediterranean diet.

Dr Jospe explains participants who said they were still following their diet at 12 months lost even more weight, showing the importance of choosing a diet that is sustainable.

She believes the results of this study are relevant to the thousands of people following self-chosen diets with little supervision and indicates more realistic outcomes.

Sources:

University of Otago

Journal article

Image: Pixabay

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Low-Fat Diet Linked to Lower Testosterone Levels in Men

For the many men diagnosed with testosterone deficiency, losing weight can help increase testosterone levels. But certain diets – specifically a low-fat diet – may be associated with a small but significant reduction in testosterone, suggests a study in The Journal of Urology®, Official Journal of the American Urological Association (AUA). The Journal is published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.

“We found that men who adhered to a fat restrictive diet had lower serum testosterone than men on a nonrestrictive diet,” according to the report by Jake Fantus, MD, of the Section of Urology, Department of Surgery, University of Chicago Medicine and colleagues from the Department of Urology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and the Department of Surgery, NorthShore University Health System. “However,” the researchers add, “the clinical significance of small differences in serum T across diets is unclear.”

Best Diet for Low Testosterone? No Single Right Answer Yet

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Dr. Fantus and colleagues analyzed data on more than 3,100 men from a nationwide health study (the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES). All participants had available data on diet and serum testosterone level.

Based on two-day diet history, 14.6 percent of men met criteria for a low-fat diet, as defined by the American Heart Association (AHA). Another 24.4 percent of men followed a Mediterranean diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains but low in animal protein and dairy products. Only a few men met criteria for the AHA low-carbohydrate diet, so this group was excluded from the analysis.

The average serum testosterone level was 435.5 ng/dL (nanograms per deciliter). Serum testosterone was lower in men on the two restrictive diets: average 411 ng/dL for those on a low-fat diet and 413 ng/dL for those on the Mediterranean diet.

The associations were adjusted for other factors that can affect testosterone, including age, body mass index, physical activity, and medical conditions. After adjustment, the low-fat diet was significantly associated with reduced serum testosterone, although the Mediterranean diet was not.

Overall, 26.8 percent of men had testosterone levels less than 300 ng/dL. Despite the difference in average testosterone levels, the proportion of men with low testosterone was similar across all diet groups.

Low testosterone is highly prevalent in the United States, as approximately 500,000 men are diagnosed with testosterone deficiency each year. Testosterone deficiency can lead to problems, including decreased energy and libido, along with physiological alterations, including increased body fat and reduced bone mineral density.

In addition to medications, treatment for low testosterone often includes lifestyle modifications, such as exercise and weight loss. But the effects of diet on testosterone levels have been unclear. Because testosterone is a steroid hormone derived from cholesterol, changes in fat intake could alter testosterone levels. This new analysis of how diet affects serum testosterone provides evidence that a low-fat diet is associated with lower testosterone levels, compared to an unrestricted diet.

So what diet is best for men with testosterone deficiency? The answer remains unknown, according to the authors. In overweight or obese men, the health benefits of a low-fat diet likely far exceed the small reduction in serum testosterone. In contrast, for men who are not overweight, avoiding a low-fat diet “may be a reasonable component” of a multifaceted approach to increasing serum testosterone.

Dr. Fantus and coauthors note that further studies will be needed to corroborate their findings, and to clarify the mechanism by which restrictive diets reduce testosterone. But due to the difficulties of large-scale dietary studies, definitive trials are unlikely to be performed. “Therefore, our data represent a valuable approach towards answering this important question,” the authors conclude.

Sources:
WOLTERS KLUWER HEALTH
Journal Article

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Eating Blueberries Every Day Improves Heart Health

Eating a cup of blueberries a day reduces risk factors for cardiovascular disease – according to new research led by the University of East Anglia, in collaboration with colleagues from Harvard and across the UK.

New findings published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition show that eating 150g of blueberries daily reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 15 per cent.

The research team from UEA’s Department of Nutrition and Preventive Medicine, Norwich Medical School, say that blueberries and other berries should be included in dietary strategies to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease – particularly among at risk groups.

The team set out to see whether eating blueberries had any effect on Metabolic Syndrome – a condition, affecting 1/3 of westernised adults, which comprises at least three of the following risk factors: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, low levels of ‘good cholesterol’ and high levels of triglycerides.

Lead researcher Prof Aedin Cassidy, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Having Metabolic syndrome significantly increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes and often statins and other medications are prescribed to help control this risk.

“It’s widely recognised that lifestyle changes, including making simple changes to food choices, can also help.

“Previous studies have indicated that people who regularly eat blueberries have a reduced risk of developing conditions including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This may be because blueberries are high in naturally occurring compounds called anthocyanins, which are the flavonoids responsible for the red and blue colour in fruits.

“We wanted to find out whether eating blueberries could help people who have already been identified as being at risk of developing these sort of conditions.”

The team investigated the effects of eating blueberries daily in 138 overweight and obese people, aged between 50 and 75, with Metabolic Syndrome. The six-month study was the longest trial of its kind.

They looked at the benefits of eating 150 gram portions (one cup) compared to 75 gram portions (half a cup). The participants consumed the blueberries in freeze-dried form and a placebo group was given a purple-coloured alternative made of artificial colours and flavourings.

Co-lead, Dr Peter Curtis, said: “We found that eating one cup of blueberries per day resulted in sustained improvements in vascular function and arterial stiffness – making enough of a difference to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by between 12 and 15 per cent.

“The simple and attainable message is to consume one cup of blueberries daily to improve cardiovascular health.

“Unexpectedly, we found no benefit of a smaller 75 gram (half cup) daily intake of blueberries in this at-risk group. It is possible that higher daily intakes may be needed for heart health benefits in obese, at-risk populations, compared with the general population.”

Article by the University of East Anglia in collaboration with The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the University of Southampton, the University of Surrey, and the University of Cambridge. It was funded by the US Highbush Blueberry Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).’Blueberries improve biomarkers of cardio metabolic function in participants with metabolic syndrome – results from a 6-month, double blind, randomized controlled trial’ is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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Manuka Honey Better at Killing Respiratory Infections Than Antibiotics

Manuka honey alone outperforms antibiotics in treating respiratory infections. Combined with antibiotics, Manuka honey killed 90% of the bacteria tested

Manuka honey could provide the key to a breakthrough treatment for cystic fibrosis patients following preliminary work by experts at Swansea University.

Dr Rowena Jenkins and Dr Aled Roberts have found that using Manuka honey could offer an antibiotic alternative to treat antimicrobial resistant respiratory infections, particularly deadly bacteria found in Cystic Fibrosis (CF) infections.

Using lung tissue from pigs, experts treated grown bacterial infections mimicking those seen in CF patients with Manuka honey. The results showed that it was effective in killing antimicrobial resistant bacteria by 39% compared to 29% for antibiotics, whilst improving the activity of some antibiotics that were unable to function effectively by themselves, honey and antibiotics combined killed 90% of the bacteria tested.

CF is one of the UK’s most common life-threatening inherited diseases, with around 10,400 people in the UK suffering according to the CF Trust. A government review led by Lord Jim O’Neill also highlighted the threat of antimicrobial resistance, estimating that a continued rise in resistance by 2050 would lead to 10 million people dying every year from antimicrobial resistant infections.

A problem that CF patients suffer from are chronic and long-lasting respiratory infections which often prove fatal due to the presence of certain bacteria that are resistant to many (if not all) the antibiotics that doctors currently have at their disposal.

Bacteria that cannot be removed from the lungs through antibiotic treatment can, as a last resort, be removed by providing patients with newly transplanted lungs. This has some associated risks, however, as the bacteria that caused the original infection can still be found in the upper airway, and migrate into the new lungs, thus making the transplant ineffective.

Some patients have a worse prognosis as they are infected with deadly types of bacteria, such as Pseudomonas and Burkholderia cepacia complex, which are difficult to kill (due to multiple antibiotic resistance) and cause extensive damage to the lungs. In some instances, merely their presence within a patient can prevent them from receiving life-saving lung transplants.

The effectiveness of antibiotics against these deadly infections is a huge concern, making the need to find suitable, non-toxic alternatives, which are effective at killing the bacteria a top priority.

Honey has been used for thousands of years as a medicinal product. More recently, research has shown that Manuka honey is capable of killing antibiotic resistant bacteria present in surface wounds. Funding from The Waterloo Foundation and The Hodge Foundation has allowed research to look at it as an antibiotic alternative in CF infections.

Dr Rowena Jenkins, Lecturer in Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at Swansea University, said:

“The preliminary results are very promising and should these be replicated in the clinical setting then this could open up additional treatment options for those with cystic fibrosis infections.

“The synergy with antibiotics and absence of resistance seen in the laboratory has allowed us to move into the current clinical trial, investigating the potential for Manuka honey as part of a sinus rinse for alleviating infection in the upper airway.

Article and study by Swansea University.

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Cranberries Help Antibiotics Fight Bacterial Infections

Research conducted at McGill University and INRS has found that a cranberry extract makes bacteria more sensitive to antibiotics, a promising avenue for limiting resistance to these important drugs

The global spread of antibiotic resistance is undermining decades of progress in fighting bacterial infections. Due to the overuse of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture, we are on the cusp of returning to a pre-antibiotic era in which minor infections can once again become deadly. Therefore, countering the fall in antibiotic efficacy by improving the effectiveness of currently available antibiotics is a crucial goal.

Cranberries are highly sought after for their tangy taste and the antioxidants they contain, but a new study published in the journal Advanced Science provides evidence that they could also help in the fight against bacteria. When treated with molecules derived from cranberries, pathogenic bacteria become more sensitive to lower doses of antibiotics. What’s more, the bacteria don’t develop resistance to the antibiotics, according to the findings by researchers at McGill University and INRS (Institut national de la recherche scientifique) in Montreal.

Given the popular belief that drinking cranberry juice is helpful against urinary tract infections, the researchers sought to find out more about the berry’s molecular properties by treating various bacteria with a cranberry extract. The bacteria selected for study were those responsible for urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and gastro-enteritis (Proteus mirabilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Escherichia coli).

“Normally when we treat bacteria with an antibiotic in the lab, the bacteria eventually acquire resistance over time,” said McGill chemical engineering professor Nathalie Tufenkji, lead author of the study. “But when we simultaneously treated the bacteria with an antibiotic and the cranberry extract, no resistance developed. We were very surprised by this, and we see it as an important opportunity.”

Analyses showed that the cranberry extract increases bacterial sensitivity to antibiotics by acting in two ways. First, it makes the bacterial cell wall more permeable to the antibiotic, and second, it interferes with the mechanism used by the bacteria to pump out the antibiotic. Consequently, the antibiotic penetrates more easily, and the bacteria have a harder time getting rid of it, which explains why the drug is effective at lower doses.

“These are really exciting results,” said coauthor Éric Déziel, a professor of microbiology at INRS. “The activity is generated by molecules called proanthocyanidins. There are several different kinds of proanthocyanidins, and they may work together to deliver this outcome. We’ll need to do more research to determine which ones are most active in synergy with the antibiotic.”

After confirming the activity of the cranberry molecules on bacterial culture, the researchers tested to determine whether the pattern persisted in a preliminary animal model: infected insects. Since the synergistic effect of the extract and the antibiotic was also observed in the insects, further experiments will be conducted to clearly identify the active molecules.

If the results are confirmed in animals, certain classes of antibiotics subject to high levels of resistance could be made useful again by using cranberry extract to boost their potential.

“We are eager to pursue this research further,” Tufenkji said. “Our hope is to reduce the doses of antibiotics required in human and veterinary medicine as part of efforts to combat antibiotic resistance.”

Article by McGill University. Related journal article in Advanced Science. Image by Pixabay.

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Homeschoolers Sleep Better and Eat Healthier Than Normies

Study finds better sleep, diet habits help homeschoolers counter shortfalls in formal exercise. Homeschoolers see no added health risks over time. 

Years of home-schooling don’t appear to influence the general health of children, according to a Rice University study.

A report by Rice kinesiology lecturer Laura Kabiri and colleagues in the Oxford University Press journal Health Promotion International puts forth evidence that the amount of time a student spends in home school is “weakly or not at all related to multiple aspects of youth physical health.”

“Although there may be differences in the health of elementary through high school home-schoolers, those differences don’t seem to change with additional time spent in home school,” Kabiri said. “In other words, staying in home school longer isn’t related to increased health benefits or deficits.”

Earlier this year Kabiri and her Rice team reported that home-schooled students who depended on maintaining physical fitness through outside activities were often falling short.

The flip side presented in the new report should come as good news to parents and students. The study was conducted by Kabiri and colleagues at Texas Woman’s University and the University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) at San Antonio.

The results from studies of more than 140 children in grades kindergarten through 5, who were tested against statistically normal data for children of their age and gender, accounted for prior published research that showed home-schooled children have less upper-body and abdominal muscle strength and more abdominal fat when compared to public school students. Additional studies also showed that home-schooling benefited sleep patterns, overall body composition and diet.

However, to the researchers’ surprise, these differences in home-schooler health did not appear to be affected either way by increased time in home school.

“Body composition can relate to sleep as well as diet,” Kabiri said. “And as far as muscular health goes, these kids are still active. We’re not saying there’s not an upfront benefit or detriment to their health, but after an initial gain or loss, there aren’t additional gains or losses over time if you’re going to home-school your children for one year or their entire careers. The relationship between their health and the time they spend in home school seems to be irrelevant.”

Article by Rice University. Co-authors of the study are doctoral student Allison Butcher and Associate Professor Wayne Brewer of Texas Woman’s University and Alexis Ortiz, the Berneice Castella Endowed Allied Health Chair in Geriatric Science in the department of physical therapy at UTHealth San Antonio. Read the abstract at https://academic.oup.com/heapro/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/heapro/daz047/5492359.

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Eating Cholesterol and Eggs Does Not Increase Risk of Strokes

A new study from the University of Eastern Finland shows that a moderately high intake of dietary cholesterol or consumption of up to one egg per day is not associated with an elevated risk of stroke. Furthermore, no association was found in carriers of the APOE4 phenotype, which affects cholesterol metabolism and is remarkably common among the Finnish population. The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Findings from earlier studies addressing the association of dietary cholesterol or egg intake with the risk of stroke have been contradictory. Some studies have found an association between high dietary cholesterol intake and an increased risk of stroke, while others have associated the consumption of eggs, which are high in cholesterol, with a reduced risk of stroke.

For most people, dietary cholesterol plays a very small role in affecting their serum cholesterol levels. However, in carriers of the apolipoprotein E phenotype 4 – which significantly impacts cholesterol metabolism – the effect of dietary cholesterol on serum cholesterol levels is greater. In Finland, the prevalence of APOE4, which is a hereditary variant, is exceptionally high, with approximately one third of the population presenting as carriers. Yet, research data on the association between a high intake of dietary cholesterol and the risk of stroke in this population group has not been available until now.

The dietary habits of 1,950 men aged between 42 and 60 years with no baseline diagnosis of a cardiovascular disease were assessed at the onset the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study, KIHD, in 1984-1989 at the University of Eastern Finland. APOE phenotype data were available for 1,015 of the men participating in the study. Of those, 32% were known carriers of APOE4.

During a follow-up of 21 years, 217 men were diagnosed with stroke. The study found that neither dietary cholesterol nor egg consumption was associated with the risk of stroke – not even in carriers of APOE4.

The findings suggest that moderate cholesterol intake or daily egg consumption are not associated with the risk of stroke, even in persons who are genetically predisposed to a greater effect of dietary cholesterol on serum cholesterol levels. In the highest control group, the study participants had an average daily dietary cholesterol intake of 520 mg and they consumed an average of one egg per day, which means that the findings cannot be generalised beyond these levels. One egg contains approximately 200 mg of cholesterol.

In this study, about a fourth of the total dietary cholesterol consumed came from eggs. Furthermore, the generalisability of this study is also weakened by the fact that the study population did not have a pre-existing cardiovascular disease at baseline and the size of the study population was relatively small. Therefore, the findings of the study should be verified in a larger cohort as well as in people with a pre-existing cardiovascular disease, who are currently advised to limit their intake of cholesterol and eggs.

Article by University of Eastern Finland. Anna M. Abdollahi, Heli E.K. Virtanen, Sari Voutilainen, Sudhir Kurl, Tomi-Pekka Tuomainen, Jukka T. Salonen, Jyrki K. Virtanen American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, published online May 16, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqz066

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

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U.S. Organic Food Sales Exceed $50 Billion in 2018


Sales hit a record $52.5 billion as organic becomes mainstream, says Organic Trade Association survey

Clean, transparent, fresh, sustainable. Environmentally friendly, animal humane, high quality, social activism. Those traits are all identified with organic, and in 2018 they all helped push organic sales to unprecedented levels. The U.S. organic market in 2018 broke through the $50 billion mark for the first time, with sales hitting a record $52.5 billion, up 6.3 percent from the previous year, according to the 2019 Organic Industry Survey released Friday by the Organic Trade Association.

New records were made in both the organic food market and the organic non-food market. Organic food sales reached $47.9 billion, for an increase of 5.9 percent. Sales of organic non-food products jumped by 10.6 percent to $4.6 billion. The growth rate for organic continued to easily outpace the general market: in 2018, total food sales in the U.S. edged up just 2.3 percent while total non-food sales rose 3.7 percent.


CHART: TOTAL U.S. ORGANIC SALES AND GROWTH, 2009-2018

Millennials are pushing for transparency and integrity in the food supply chain, and they are savvy to misleading marketing. The USDA Organic seal is gaining new appeal as consumers realize that organic is a certification that is not only monitored and supported by official standards, but is the only seal that encompasses the spectrum of Non-GMO, no toxic pesticides or chemicals, dyes or preservatives.

Organic industry grows to over $50 billion in sales. Almost 6 percent (5.7 percent) of the food sold in this country is now organic. Today’s consumers can find organic products – food and non-food items — in every aisle of their grocery stores. They can choose organic in their favorite big box store, their club warehouse store, even in their neighborhood convenience store, and increasingly on the internet. Organic is no longer a niche market.

“Organic is now considered mainstream. But the attitudes surrounding organic are anything but status quo,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “In 2018, there was a notable shift in the mindset of those working in organic toward collaboration and activism to move the needle on the role organic can play in sustainability and tackling environmental initiatives.”

“Activism is a natural reaction from an industry that is really close to the consumer. When we are in an environment where government is not moving fast enough, the industry is choosing to move to meet the consumer rather than get stalled,” said Batcha.

Produce still reigns supreme

Still the stalwart of the organic industry, sales of organic fruits and vegetables rose to $17.4 billion in 2018 for a 5.6 percent rate of growth, on par with the growth attained in 2017. By comparison, the overall fruits and vegetables category, including both organic and conventional products, grew by just 1.7 percent in 2018.

Fruits and vegetables now account for 36.3 percent of all organic food sales. Organic fruits and vegetable make up close to 15 percent (14.6 percent) of all the produce sold in the U.S., and have nearly doubled their market share in the last ten years.

Produce is a gateway to organic for consumers, especially Millennials and those with young families. Industry experts note that the more people learn about health and wellness, the more people buy fresh produce.

Popular in the organic produce aisles: the classics like carrots, greens, apples, bananas. Also hitting stride are organic berries, avocados, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and tropical fruits like mangoes and papayas. And outside the fresh produce section, the frozen, canned, and dried vegetable and fruit sections also made gains.

Innovation is key in the organic dairy market

Shoppers, especially young families, are increasingly seeking out products made from high-quality simple ingredients from brands committed to sustainable agriculture and its environmental benefits. Those shoppers turn to organic dairy as a trusted clean product free of antibiotics, synthetic hormones and chemicals. But growth in the U.S. dairy sector slowed for the second straight year due largely to shifting diet trends. Still the second-largest organic category, dairy and egg sales were $6.5 billion in 2018, up 0.8 percent from 2017.

Although growth in organic egg sales has slowed from the strong double-digit growth seen in the first part of this decade, the $858 million category still grew by a solid 9.3 percent in 2018. As more consumers get into organic, organic egg demand is expected to continue growing.

But where skim milk and low fat products were not so long ago favored by consumers, products high in healthy fats and protein are now popular. Many Millennials have also moved away from livestock-based products toward plant-based foods and beverages. Experts said that to satisfy today’s consumer, the importance of innovation in the organic dairy sector has never been greater. In 2018, the industry responded with milk beverages with increased protein, more full-fat dairy products, new flavors and grass-fed products.

Organic reaching far beyond food

Consumers are making the connection that the same reasons they choose to eat organic food apply to the non-food products they use–whether napkins for their dinner table, food for their pets, lotions they put on their skin or the supplements they ingest. Consumers want clean labels and to reduce the chemical load on their bodies. Millennials also have a higher awareness around supply chain transparency and sustainability. All of these factors bode well for the future of the organic non-food industry.

In 2018, the organic non-food category reached $4.6 billion in sales with a growth rate of 10.6 percent. This rate is both well above the 7.4 percent growth rate reported in 2017, and the 3.6 percent growth rate reported in 2018 for the overall non-food industry (conventional and organic combined).

The strongest growth came from fiber, the largest of the non-food categories, which accounts for 40 percent of the organic non-food market. In 2018, fiber recorded $1.8 billion in sales, up from $1.6 billion in 2017.

An organic outlook of innovation and activism

The outlook for organic is not without its challenges, but all expectations are that innovation and activism by the organic industry will continue to build as the sector works to maintain the credibility of the Organic seal and the trust of consumers.

“Organic is in a unique and tough environment. The government is slowing the advancement of the organic standard, but the positive news is that industry is finding ways to innovate and get closer to the consumer without walking away from the organic program—the sector is innovating yet requiring that federal organic be in place,” said Batcha. “So, whether it’s grass-fed, regenerative, or Global Organic Textile Standard certified, they all have to be organic. The industry is committed to standards and giving consumers what they want.”

This year’s survey was conducted from January through April 2019 and produced on behalf of the Organic Trade Association by Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ). More than 200 companies completed a significant portion of the in-depth survey. Executive summaries of the survey are available to the media upon request. The full report can be purchased online.

Article published by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) – a membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America.

Image by ElasticComputeFarm from Pixabay

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Natural Compound in Broccoli Suppresses Cancer Tumor Growth


By Jacqueline Mitchell

Your mother was right; broccoli is good for you. Long associated with decreased risk of cancer, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables – the family of plants that also includes cauliflower, cabbage, collard greens, Brussels sprouts and kale – contain a molecule that inactivates a gene known to play a role in a variety of common human cancers. In a new paper published today in Science, researchers, led by Pier Paolo Pandolfi, MD, PhD, Director of the Cancer Center and Cancer Research Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, demonstrate that targeting the gene, known as WWP1, with the ingredient found in broccoli suppressed tumor growth in cancer-prone lab animals.

“We found a new important player that drives a pathway critical to the development of cancer, an enzyme that can be inhibited with a natural compound found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables,” said Pandolfi. “This pathway emerges not only as a regulator for tumor growth control, but also as an Achilles’ heel we can target with therapeutic options.”

A well-known and potent tumor suppressive gene, PTEN is one of the most frequently mutated, deleted, down-regulated or silenced tumor suppressor genes in human cancers. Certain inherited PTEN mutations can cause syndromes characterized by cancer susceptibility and developmental defects. But because complete loss of the gene triggers an irreversible and potent failsafe mechanism that halts proliferation of cancer cells, both copies of the gene (humans have two copies of each gene; one from each parent) are rarely affected. Instead, tumor cells exhibit lower levels of PTEN, raising the question whether restoring PTEN activity to normal levels in the cancer setting can unleash the gene’s tumor suppressive activity.

To find out, Pandolfi and colleagues identified the molecules and compounds regulating PTEN function and activation. Carrying out a series of experiments in cancer prone mice and human cells, the team revealed that a gene called WWP1 – which is also known to play a role in the development of cancer – produces an enzyme that inhibits PTEN’s tumor suppressive activity. How to disable this PTEN kryptonite? By analyzing the enzyme’s physical shape, the research team’s chemists recognized that a small molecule – formally named indole-3-carbinol (I3C), an ingredient in broccoli and its relatives – could be the key to quelling the cancer causing effects of WWP1.

When Pandolfi and colleagues tested this idea by administering I3C to cancer prone lab animals, the scientists found that the naturally occurring ingredient in broccoli inactivated WWP1, releasing the brakes on the PTEN’s tumor suppressive power.

But don’t head to the farmer’s market just yet; first author Yu-Ru Lee, PhD, a member of the Pandolfi lab, notes you’d have to eat nearly 6 pounds of Brussels sprouts a day – and uncooked ones at that – to reap their potential anti-cancer benefit. That’s why the Pandolfi team is seeking other ways to leverage this new knowledge. The team plans to further study the function of WWP1 with the ultimate goal of developing more potent WWP1 inhibitors.

“Either genetic or pharmacological inactivation of WWP1 with either CRISPR technology or I3C could restore PTEN function and further unleash its tumor suppressive activity,” said Pandolfi. “These findings pave the way toward a long-sought tumor suppressor reactivation approach to cancer treatment.”

Article published by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School and consistently ranks as a national leader among independent hospitals in National Institutes of Health funding.

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Study: Heavily Processed Foods Cause Overeating and Weight Gain

People eating ultra-processed foods ate more calories and gained more weight than when they ate a minimally processed diet, according to results from a National Institutes of Health study.

The difference occurred even though meals provided to the volunteers in both the ultra-processed and minimally processed diets had the same number of calories and macronutrients. The results were published in Cell Metabolism.

This small-scale study of 20 adult volunteers, conducted by researchers at the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), is the first randomized controlled trial examining the effects of ultra-processed foods as defined by the NOVA classification system. This system considers foods “ultra-processed” if they have ingredients predominantly found in industrial food manufacturing, such as hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, flavoring agents, and emulsifiers.

Previous observational studies looking at large groups of people had shown associations between diets high in processed foods and health problems. But, because none of the past studies randomly assigned people to eat specific foods and then measured the results, scientists could not say for sure whether the processed foods were a problem on their own, or whether people eating them had health problems for other reasons, such as a lack of access to fresh foods.

“Though we examined a small group, results from this tightly controlled experiment showed a clear and consistent difference between the two diets,” said Kevin D. Hall, Ph.D., an NIDDK senior investigator and the study’s lead author. “This is the first study to demonstrate causality — that ultra-processed foods cause people to eat too many calories and gain weight.”

For the study, researchers admitted 20 healthy adult volunteers, 10 male and 10 female, to the NIH Clinical Center for one continuous month and, in random order for two weeks on each diet, provided them with meals made up of ultra-processed foods or meals of minimally processed foods. For example, an ultra-processed breakfast might consist of a bagel with cream cheese and turkey bacon, while the unprocessed breakfast was oatmeal with bananas, walnuts, and skim milk.

The ultra-processed and unprocessed meals had the same amounts of calories, sugars, fiber, fat, and carbohydrates, and participants could eat as much or as little as they wanted.

On the ultra-processed diet, people ate about 500 calories more per day than they did on the unprocessed diet. They also ate faster on the ultra-processed diet and gained weight, whereas they lost weight on the unprocessed diet. Participants, on average, gained 0.9 kilograms, or 2 pounds, while they were on the ultra-processed diet and lost an equivalent amount on the unprocessed diet.

“We need to figure out what specific aspect of the ultra-processed foods affected people’s eating behavior and led them to gain weight,” Hall said. “The next step is to design similar studies with a reformulated ultra-processed diet to see if the changes can make the diet effect on calorie intake and body weight disappear.”

For example, slight differences in protein levels between the ultra-processed and unprocessed diets in this study could potentially explain as much as half the difference in calorie intake.

Over time, extra calories add up, and that extra weight can lead to serious health conditions,” said NIDDK Director Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D. “Research like this is an important part of understanding the role of nutrition in health and may also help people identify foods that are both nutritious and accessible — helping people stay healthy for the long term.”

While the study reinforces the benefits of unprocessed foods, researchers note that ultra-processed foods can be difficult to restrict. “We have to be mindful that it takes more time and more money to prepare less-processed foods,” Hall said. “Just telling people to eat healthier may not be effective for some people without improved access to healthy foods.”

Support for the study primarily came from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

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