Vanilla Makes Milk Beverages Seem Sweeter

Jeff Mulhollem wrote . . . . . . . . .

Adding vanilla to sweetened milk makes consumers think the beverage is sweeter, allowing the amount of added sugar to be reduced, according to Penn State researchers, who will use the concept to develop a reduced-sugar chocolate milk for the National School Lunch Program.

“We are utilizing a learned association between an odor and a taste that will allow us to reduce the added sugar content,” said Helene Hopfer, assistant professor of food science. “Reducing added sugar in products, just like reducing fat and salt, is the holy grail of food science.”

The idea that congruent or harmonious odors enhance certain tastes is not new, explained Hopfer, whose research group in the College of Agricultural Sciences has been experimenting with these “cross-modal interactions” in food since she came to Penn State three years ago. Her goal is to see them actually incorporated into foods.

In a blind taste test that provided new insights into taste enhancement by an aroma, participants — who did not know vanilla had been added to the milk — consistently indicated that samples with vanilla were significantly sweeter than their added sugar concentrations could explain.

The subjects’ responses indicate that with the addition of vanilla, the added sugar content in flavored milk could potentially be reduced by 20 to 50 percent, suggested lead researcher Gloria Wang, and people should not be able to perceive the beverage as less sweet.

“We maintain the sweetness perception by having this congruent odor — this learned, associated odor — basically trick the brain into thinking that there is still enough sweetness there,” she said. “Based on our results, taste-aroma interaction is a robust effect.”

Wang, now an associate scientist in product development with Leprino Foods Co. in Colorado, conducted the research at Penn State as part of her master’s degree thesis in food science. She tested not only congruent taste-aroma combinations but incongruent combinations as well. It turned out that even a beef odor in milk slightly enhanced sweetness for study participants.

Given widespread concerns about sugar intake and health, manufacturers are reformulating their products to help address consumer demand, Wang noted. She believes the findings of the research, recently published in Food Quality and Preference, offer them a workable option to reduce added sugar in their products and retain the sweetness consumers demand.

The study was novel because it did not ask participants to rate individual attributes of the milk such as sweetness, intensity of vanilla odor or milk taste. Instead, participants took a more holistic approach and simply selected the best match for the vanilla milk from four differently sweetened milk choices.

Later this summer, Hopfer’s lab in the Department of Food Science will start working on a two-year project, funded by the National Dairy Council, aimed at developing a reduced-sugar chocolate milk for the National School Lunch Program. The effort, based on the recent research using the synergistic actions between vanilla and sugar to reduce the added sugar content, will be a challenge because of the inherent bitterness of cocoa.

“The amount of sugar in chocolate milk is quite high because cocoa is very bitter, so you need some sugar to decrease the bitterness of the cocoa and then more to make it sweet,” Hopfer said. “We are hoping to utilize what we found with odors to reduce the added sugar content by experimenting to find the sweet spot between cocoa powder, sugar content and vanilla flavor. We know that if it isn’t sweet, children won’t drink it.”

Source: Penn State University

Moroccan-style Grilled Harissa Rack of Lamb with Summer Succotash


6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons harissa paste
2 frenched small 8-rib racks of lamb (about 1-1/4 pounds each), trimmed of all but a thin layer of fat
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 ears corn, husked
2 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise
4 ounces green beans, trimmed


  1. Prepare an outdoor grill for medium-high cooking over direct heat.
  2. In a small bowl, mix 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and the harissa paste together.
  3. Season the lamb racks with salt and pepper. Spread the harissa mixture all over the lamb.
  4. Grill the lamb for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into the center of the lamb registers 125°F for medium-rare. Transfer the lamb to a carving board and let stand for about l0 minutes.
  5. Coat the corn, zucchini, and green beans with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Grill the vegetables, turning occasionally and removing them from the grill when they are lightly charred, about 2 minutes for the green beans, about 5 minutes for the zucchini, and about l0 minutes for the corn.
  7. Cut the corn kernels off the cobs and transfer the kernels to a large bowl.
  8. Cut the zucchini into bite-size pieces and add to the bowl. Add the green beans and drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over the succotash and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  9. Mound the succotash on four dinner plates or a large platter. Cut the lamb racks into individual chops and place over the succotash. Drizzle with the carving juices and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: What’s for Dinner?

What’s for Lunch?

Home-cooked Italian-style Lunch

The Menu

Tomato and Mozzarella

Spaghetti Carbonara

Green Salad with Marinated Ham

Dessert – Sweet Potato

Low Vitamin K May Reduce Mobility in Older Adults

Catharine Paddock wrote . . . . . . . . .

Dietary sources of vitamin K include kale, spinach, broccoli, and other leafy greens. Some dairy foods also contain vitamin K.

The investigators who carried out the study say that their findings “suggest vitamin K may be involved in the disablement process in older age.”

They describe their work in a paper that features in a recent issue of The Journals of Gerontology: Series A.

Previous studies have established links between vitamin K and long-term conditions that can raise the risk of mobility disability. These conditions include cardiovascular disease and osteoarthritis.

However, none of those earlier investigations had examined the relationship between vitamin K and mobility disability directly.

M. Kyla Shea is the new study’s first and corresponding author. She researches Vitamin K at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, MA.

Shea explains that: “Low vitamin K status has been associated with the onset of chronic diseases that lead to disability, but the work to understand this connection is in its infancy.”

She and her colleagues believe that they are the first to evaluate the relationship between “vitamin K status and incident mobility disability” in older adults.

The new evidence builds on earlier studies that have associated low levels of circulating vitamin K with “slower gait speed and a higher risk of osteoarthritis,” Shea explains.

Mobility is fundamental to healthy aging

Researchers typically define mobility as the “ability to move independently” from one place to another.

Physical independence is integral to healthy aging and older adults’ quality of life. From being able to get out of bed to walking and climbing stairs, much of daily activity involves mobility.

A 2018 study that reviewed the available evidence suggested that around 30% of older adults have limited mobility.

The most common causes of mobility disability in older people are the onset of lung problems, arthritis, and other long-term conditions.

A common measure of mobility is the ability to walk and climb stairs.

Mobility and vitamin K status

Vitamin K is a group of fat-soluble compounds that have a similar chemical structure and are present in some foods. Phylloquinone is the main dietary form of vitamin K and is present mainly in leafy greens.

To assess vitamin K status, Shea and her colleagues measured two blood biomarkers: phylloquinone and uncarboxylated matrix Gla protein (ucMGP), a protein that requires vitamin K. They note that ucMGP in the blood “increases when vitamin K status is low.”

The data that they analyzed came from 688 women and 635 men in the Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study. Around 40% of the participants were black, and their ages ranged from 70 to 79 years.

The Health ABC study assessed mobility every 6 months for a period of between 6 and 10 years. The participants attended clinics and also completed interviews on the phone.

The researchers defined mobility limitation as two consecutive 6-monthly reports of experiencing “any amount of difficulty either with walking a quarter of a mile or climbing 10 steps without resting.”

They defined mobility disability as two consecutive 6-monthly reports of experiencing “a lot of difficulty or inability” to complete the same walking and climbing challenge.

The analysis showed that the older people who were most likely to develop mobility limitation and disability were the ones with low blood levels of phylloquinone.

In particular, the researchers found that developing mobility limitation was almost 1.5 times more likely in those with low blood levels of phylloquinone compared with those who had sufficient levels.

In addition, the chance of developing mobility disability for those low in phylloquinone was almost double that of those with sufficient levels.

There was no clear relationship between either mobility limitation or disability with blood levels of ucMGP.

The results for men and women were largely similar.

The researchers call for further studies to confirm their findings and clarify the mechanisms that might link vitamin K to mobility.

Source: Medical News Today

Study: Ailing Heart Can Speed the Brain’s Decline

The strong link between brain health and heart health is reinforced in a new study. The research showed that as cardiovascular health falters, so too does thinking and memory.

In one of the largest and longest studies of its kind to date, researchers studied a group of nearly 8,000 people in the United Kingdom. The participants were over 49 years of age and their health was tracked from 2002 to 2017.

Everyone in the study had relatively healthy hearts and brains at the beginning of the research. People with a history of stroke, heart attack, angina, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease were excluded.

But over 15 years of follow-up, nearly 6% of the participants did go on to suffer a heart attack or angina (chest pain), according to a team led by Wuxiang Xie, a research fellow at the Imperial College School of Public Health in London.

The researchers found that all of these participants also displayed a faster decline in their mental function, concurrent with the heart trouble.

Patients who suffered from angina had a significant decline in tests of “temporal orientation” — being able to accurately state the current date, day of week and time. Patients who had a heart attack showed a substantial decline in tests of verbal memory (assessed by a word-memory test) and language fluency. They also had the worse cognitive decline overall, the researchers found.

All of that is important, because “even small differences in cognitive function can result in an increased risk of dementia in the long-term,” Xie said in a news release from the American College of Cardiology.

“Because there is no current cure for dementia, early detection and intervention are essential to delay the progression to dementia,” Xie said. “Heart attack and angina patients need careful monitoring in the years following a diagnosis.”

The connection between declines in memory and thinking and heart disease may be as simple as the brain not getting the amount of oxygen that it used to, the researchers theorized. Tiny “microinfarcts” — heart-linked damage to small vessels in the brain — might hamper blood flow and oxygen supply.

Two U.S. experts who reviewed the findings agreed that the heart-brain connection is crucial to health.

“This study further emphasizes that approaching the body holistically is crucial for brain health and to prevent dementia,” said Dr. Gayatri Devi. She is a neurologist specializing in memory disorders at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“Brain health is dependent on heart health and health of the entire individual,” Devi added.

Dr. Guy Mintz directs cardiovascular health at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. He called the new study “a wake-up call for physicians to improve the risk factors associated with atherosclerosis [hardening of the arteries] early in life.”

Mintz pointed out that “patients can live with heart disease, but patients and their families suffer from decline in brain function. Watching someone become mentally lost in life is tragic and, in some cases associated with atherosclerosis, may be preventable.”

Devi stressed that keeping the brain sharp involves fitness of both mind and body.

“It is not enough to do Sudoku or crossword puzzles. It is just as important to take care of the body,” she said. “Proven ways to prevent brain disease, including Alzheimer’s dementia and stroke, are to take better care of one’s heart and body, by exercising, eating and sleeping well, and refraining from smoking.”

The new report was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Source: HealthDay

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