12 January - 20 June 2016

Other headlines

  • Vegetable protein consumption associated with lower risk of early menopause
  • American Heart Association advocates replacing foods high in saturated fats
  • Vitamin A may help insulin production in pancreatic cells
  • Report suggests global food supply threatened by transport issues
  • The effects of roasting on the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of coffee
  • Increase in abuse of organic label certification and geographical indication infringement
  • Food hygiene rating signs should be mandatory in England & Scotland
  • Simple dietary changes may be effective at reducing Crohn’s disease symptoms
  • Is coffee production under threat?
  • Childhood obesity risk, genetics and parental practices
  • Consuming fish may reduce arthritis symptoms

Vegetable protein consumption associated with lower risk of early menopause
A study conducted by researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and recently published in the American Journal of Epidemiology indicates that a high consumption of vegetable protein may help protect against an early menopause. Early menopause is defined as the cessation of ovarian function before the age of 45 and it thought to affect around 1 in 10 women. It is also associated with higher risk of several diseases including cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Using data from the Nurses’ Health Study 2, which includes around 116000 US based nurses, Boutot et al. looked at the relationship between diet and early menopause. The researchers found that those women eating the highest quintile of calories daily from vegetable protein (median value 6.5%), estimated at 3-4 servings per day, had a 16% lower risk early menopause than those in the lowest quintile (3.9%). Boutot et al also noted that the consumption of dark bread, cold cereal and pasta were also associated with a lower risk of early menopause. The consumption of animal protein was not related to early menopause risk. Lead author Maegan Boutot and her adviser, Professor Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson, write that “A better understanding of how dietary vegetable protein intake is associated with ovarian aging may identify ways for women to modify their risk of early onset menopause and associated health conditions". (Medical Xpress)

American Heart Association advocates replacing foods high in saturated fats
New advice from the American Heart Association (AHA), published in the journal Circulation, indicates that replacing food high in saturated fat with those with unsaturated fats can reduce the chance of heart disease as much as the cholesterol-lowering drugs, statins. While it is known that a reduction in saturated fat intake lowers LDL, or “bad cholesterol”, the AHA notes that this is only true when saturated fat is replaced with unsaturated fat and not refined carbohydrates containing sugar but no fibre. Director of the University of Maryland Medical Center's Center for Preventive Cardiology and member of the AHA panel making the recommendations, Dr Michael Miller, hasn’t suggested that people should eliminate all saturated fat from their diet but advises moderation instead. Miller is quoted as saying that "If you're good most of the time, allow yourself one unhealthy breakfast, lunch and dinner a week but don't go nuts and eat a 24-ounce steak." Miller indicates that while replacing 10% of saturated fat intake with polyunsaturated fats (corn oil, walnuts etc.) can reduce heart disease risk by 50% or replacing 10% of saturated fat intake with monounsaturated fats (olive oil, almonds etc.) can reduce risk by 30%, replacing 10% of saturated fat intake with sugary foods and soft drinks has no effect. (Medical Xpress)

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Vitamin A may help insulin production in pancreatic cells
A study by researchers from universities in Oxford, London, Malmo and Gothenburg and published in Endocrine Journal suggests that a Vitamin A deficiency decreases insulin production and so may suggest a way to prevent or treat the disease. The study found that blocking vitamin A receptors in pancreatic beta-cells reduced the levels of insulin produced by nearly 30% and that when no vitamin was present, these cells died. The scientists suggest that this may be relevant to type-1 diabetes where not enough beta cells develop. It is known that in mice vitamin A is required to develop these cells and the researchers suggest the same may be true in humans. The researchers also investigated a vitamin A receptor (GPRC5C) found on the surface of beta-cells and discovered that vitamin A increased expression of the receptors which are involved in insulin production and cell survival. The study also found GPRC5C expression was reduced in organs of type-2 diabetes suffers so these findings may also be relevant to this form of the disease. In conclusion, the scientists note that “our results demonstrate that agents activating GPRC5C represent a novel modality for the treatment and/or prevention of diabetes by restoring and/or maintaining functional β-cell mass.” (Nutra Ingredients)

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Report suggests global food supply threatened by transport issues
A report produced by the think-tank Chatham House suggests that 14 critical ‘chokepoints” could threaten global food supply security. The report suggests that previous interruptions to the food supply have hiked prices and that while increasingly frequent extreme weather incidents increase the risk of future interruptions, little is being done to tackle the issue. The locations identified are those that much of the world’s food travels through. It has been estimated for instance, that more that 50% of the worlds exports of wheat, maize, rice and soybean travel along routes to a few ports in the US, Brazil and the Black Sea. The report identifies 14 locations including Brazil’s roads, Black Sea ports and the Suez and Panama canals. Laura Wellesley, one of the report authors is quoted by the Guardian as saying that “We are talking about a huge share of global supply that could be delayed or stopped for a significant period of time. What is concerning is that, with climate change, we are very likely to see one or more of these chokepoint disruptions coincide with a harvest failure, and that’s when things start to get serious.” The report also notes previous incidents including that US inland waterways were hit by floods in 2016, recent closures of the Suez Canal and heavy rain which often turns Brazil’s road to mud. It claims North Africa and the Middle East, due to having the highest levels of food imports, are particularly vulnerable and that China alone appears to have taken steps to mitigate the issue by diversification of routes of supply for its food imports. In concluding, the report suggests a need for more global cooperation in planning and investment in infrastructure. (The Guardian)

The effects of roasting on the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of coffee
A study conducted by scientist from universities in Korea and published in the Journal of Medicinal Food suggests that increased roasting of coffee beans can reduce their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Jung et al. roasted green coffee beans for 8.00, 9.00, 10.33 and 11.33 minutes, corresponding to Light, Medium, City and French roasts, before grinding and extracting coffee in triplicate.  Each sample set was analysed for caffeine and chlorogenic acid contents and was assessed for anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The study found that total chlorogenic acid contents were higher in the Light roast coffee compared to the other three but that caffeine levels did not show major differences across the samples. The light roast extract also showed the highest antioxidant activity using DPPH assay. This result was repeated using in vitro assessment with AML-12 cells where the authors state that “Intracellular glutathione (GSH) concentration and mRNA expression levels of genes related to GSH synthesis were negatively related to roasting levels”. When Jung et al investigated the anti-inflammatory effects of the samples using lipopolysaccharide-treated RAW 264.7 macrophage cells, a similar effect was shown as “expression of mRNA for tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6 was decreased in cells treated with the coffee extracts and the expression decreased with increasing roasting levels.” In conclusion, Jung et al. reiterate that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of coffee extracts are “negatively correlated with roasting levels in the cell models” and suggest therefore that “an appropriate method of roasting should be used to maintain the best coffee flavour with optimal beneficial functions of coffee”.

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Increase in abuse of organic label certification and geographical indication infringement
According to a report prepared by Europol and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) “In 2015, the food industry saw a growth in the abuse of ‘organic’ labels attached to products that did not comply with the organic certification but had higher retail prices, and a growth in the misuse of such labels in the future was anticipated.”  The report which includes information on counterfeiting across a number of sectors also continues by stating “The value of falsely labelled geographical indication infringing (GII) products in the EU remains high, with the main producers of the original products, such as Germany, Spain, France, Italy and Greece, being the most affected by counterfeit labelled comestibles. The products affected included wine, other spirits, cheese, meat, fruit, vegetables and cereals.” It also suggest that doping products and food/herbal supplements is increasing in the EU, due to the increase in demand for “lifestyle drugs and organic foods” and state that “Nevertheless, food and beverage counterfeiting in its many forms is clearly still a serious issue for EU IPR integrity and consumer welfare.” The report discusses IPR infringement noting that this type of infringement “continues to pose a threat” and that methods used are “increasingly diverse, and range from the abuse of geographical indications to more traditional counterfeiting, such as refilling high-end bottles from recognised producers or the use of fake labels and packaging.”

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Food hygiene rating signs should be mandatory in England & Scotland
A NFU Mutual food hygiene rating report has found that that almost half of people (44%) would turn away from a food outlet that had a food hygiene rating of 3 (generally satisfactory) or less on display - even if it was their personal favourite. The report states that there are calls for legislation to make food hygiene rating signs mandatory in England and Scotland.  They note that their report demonstrates that “members of the public put a huge amount of faith in the ratings” and indicate that “almost one in seven UK food businesses (excluding in Scotland where a different scheme is used) are currently rated between 0 and 3 – that’s a staggering 65,000 pubs, restaurants, cafes and supermarkets that could be affected.”

Simple dietary changes may be effective at reducing Crohn’s disease symptoms
According to a study presented at the Digestive Week annual conference, consuming plant derived fats such as coconut oil and cocoa butter, could be beneficial for people with Crohn’s disease.  The mouse model study of Crohn’s disease found that these type of fats changed the diversity of gut bacteria, which was associated with a reduction in intestinal inflammation.  Currently Crohn’s disease is treated by medication, which helps to reduce gut inflammation, easing symptoms.  The study by Rodriguez-Palacios et al. investigated the effects of a diet high in plant derived fat or a normal diet on mice with Crohn’s disease. Mice fed beneficial fatty diets had up to thirty percent fewer kinds of gut bacteria as those fed a normal diet, collectively resulting in a very different gut microbial composition and less inflammation. (Medical News today)

Is coffee production under threat?
A report published in Nature by scientists from Kew Gardens has indicated that climate change could cause the amount of land suitable for coffee production in Ethiopia, Africa’s largest exporter of Arabica coffee beans, to shrink.  They state that not only will there be less coffee, the taste could also be affected.  In the last 35 years consumption of coffee has almost doubled, however production is susceptible to extreme weather.  The researchers report that as temperatures could rise by 4C by the end of the century, this could result in coffee growing areas with Ethiopia shrinking by up to 60%.  This temperature changebis based on greenhouse gas emission forecasts by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  The researchers indicate that if action is taken these outcomes could be avoided.  They suggest that the relocation of coffee-growing areas, as well as forest conservation and replanting could result in substantial growth which would be suitable for growing coffee in Ethiopia.  The BBC are reporting that the IPCC has also stated that Brazil could experience potential problems with its coffee production. The BBC article reports “a 3C rise in temperature and a 15% increase in rainfall from pre-industrial levels could see the potential area for production dwindle from 70-75% to 20-25%.  

Childhood obesity risk, genetics and parental practices
A study, by researchers from the University of Illinois and published in Pediatric Obesity, has sought to investigate the relationship between genetics, restrictive feeding and BMI in children. Restrictive feeding has previously been linked to childhood obesity as it is though this practice may prevent a child from learning to self-regulate food intake. In overweight children, parents often restrict food intake further and it has been suggested that communication about weight can become negative which is a further factor thought to increase obesity risk. Bost et al. used data from the STRONG Kids cohort to look at how parents of children aged 2.5 – 3 reacted to children’s negative emotions, parental feeding patterns and genetics, in particular at the COMT gene. This gene has significant impact on cognition and emotion and depending on its nature, children can be either more emotionally resilient (the “Val” allele) or more reactive to negative emotion (the “Met” allele). The researchers found that parents who reported more frequent use of unresponsive stress-regulating strategies were more likely to use restrictive feeding and more likely to have children of higher BMI where the child carries two copies of the “Met” allele. The same was not true for “Val” carriers. The researchers note that this study is unique in that it shows that the relationship between a higher BMI and use of restrictive feeding is influenced by both parental practices in relation to stress regulation and the child’s genetic make-up and how that affects their ability to deal with stress and emotions. Bost is quoted in a press release as saying that “Sometimes the way parents respond is based on their own stress, belief systems, or the way they were raised. Educating parents from a developmental perspective can help them to respond to their children's emotions in ways that will help their children learn to self-regulate their emotions and their food intake”. She added that "Children respond to us in different ways based on their own temperament, genotype, and history of interactions. Responsive parenting involves an understanding of what stress-reducing approaches are most effective for a particular child." (Science Daily)

Consuming fish may reduce arthritis symptoms
A study by Tedeschi et al. has found that consuming fish twice weekly can help rheumatoid arthritis suffers.  The study published in Arthritis Care & Research recruited 176 patients, aged 45-84 years, who reported their fish consumption in the past year using a food frequency questionnaire.  Previous studies have suggested that consumption of omega 3 and fish oil can benefit those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).  The authors of this current study hypothesised that greater fish consumption would be associated with lower RA disease activity scores (DAS28-CRP).  The researchers analysed fish consumption of “tuna fish, salmon, sardines (cooked or raw including sashimi or sushi),” and “other broiled, steamed, baked or raw fish (trout, sole, halibut, poke, grouper, etc.)”. These two groups were chosen as they “represented non-fried fish consumption, and were selected due to higher omega-3 fatty acid content compared to the other seafood items.”   After adjusting for confounding factors the researchers found that DAS28-CRP was significantly lower among subjects consuming fish ≥2 times per week compared with those eating fish <1/month.  The study notes that one additional serving of fish/week was associated with significantly lower DAS28-CRP. 

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