Cutting Acrylamide in Fried and Baked Snacks

In 2002, the discovery of acrylamide in certain snacks rattled consumers and the food industry. Acrylamide, a probable human carcinogen, forms by a chemical reaction during baking or frying. Although experts say it’s impossible to completely eliminate acrylamide from crackers, cookies and potato chips, food manufacturers are working to reduce the compound’s levels, according to an article in Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly news magazine of the American Chemical Society.

The Malliard reaction is a chemical process in which amino acids and sugars react during baking or frying to give foods a brown crust and toasty flavor. However, in addition to mouthwatering organic compounds, the reaction produces acrylamide, Senior Editor Melody Bomgardner writes. Acrylamide forms when the amino acid asparagine reacts with reducing sugars, such as fructose. Although it isn’t possible to completely remove acrylamide and still have the snacks people enjoy, food manufacturers are exploring strategies to reduce levels of the probable carcinogen in foods.

The ingredient suppliers Novozymes, Kerry and DSM all offer products for acrylamide reduction based on the enzyme asparaginase. When added to uncooked foods, this enzyme converts asparagine to aspartic acid, which does not form acrylamide. Using a combination of genetic and bioinformatics tools, Novozymes found a way to make large amounts of several versions of asparaginase tailored to specific foods. For organic food companies that wish to avoid genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Kerry has licensed a non-GMO, asparaginase-producing yeast that can be added to uncooked foods. In a different approach, the Idaho potato producer J.R. Simplot introduced a GM potato variety that produces lower levels of asparagine and sugars. With stricter regulations on acrylamide levels expected within the next 2 years, work on acrylamide reduction using other approaches, including gene editing, continues.

Source: American Chemical Society

Frozen Halva Slice


1 cup tahini
1 cup full-fat vanilla Greek yogurt
2 large organic eggs
1/2 cup fine raw cane sugar or coconut sugar
zest of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped pistachios or walnuts


  1. Line standard loaf pan with parchment or plastic wrap, making sure none of the metal is exposed (the mixture will stick to metal) and leaving lots of overhang.
  2. In stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, add tahini, yogurt, eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt. Beat on medium-high for 2 minutes, until combined and beginning to lighten, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl once or twice.
  3. Stir in chopped nuts. Pour into prepared loaf pan, fold overhanging parchment or plastic wrap, and freeze for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.
  4. To serve, remove from freezer and leave frozen halva at room temperature for 10 minutes or until you can easily remove it from the loaf pan.
  5. Unfold overhanging plastic or parchment, invert onto serving platter, and remove remaining plastic or parchment. Dip a chef’s knife into hot water, dry it, and then slice and serve halva; repeat cutting technique for each slice. Store leftover halva, wrapped, in the freezer.

Makes 8 servings.

Source: Alive magazine

There’s a Reason the Pastry in Paris Is So Darn Good

Channon Hodge wrote . . . . . . . . .

There’s no point in traveling to France without sampling the pastry. In fact, one might as well gobble macarons, éclairs and opera cake slices morning, noon and night. The country’s pastry chefs are arguably the world’s best, and they’ve been whipping up treats and teaching their techniques across the globe for centuries.

If you’re visiting Paris, you’ll find no shortage of pastry shops, and the city has some of the oldest shops in the world.

Why are all those croissants, tarts, soufflés and crème brûlées so darn good? Pastry chef Nina Metayer says it has something to do with an utter devotion to the craft.

“All the pastry chefs I know … they are totally passionate,” said Metayer.

Metayer includes herself in that category.

She started making treats as a child to make her family happy, often feasting on the raw dough and batter in the process.

As an adult, she first started her career in breadmaking before moving over to pastry. She worked her way up through jobs at Hotel Raphael and Le Grand Restaurant, and was named Pastry Chef of the Year by “Le Chef” magazine in 2016. She also placed third in the French TV competition show, “Qui sera le meilleur pâtissier?” (Who’s the best pastry chef?)

She likes to keep her desserts light and fruity, paying attention to whatever’s in season. She most recently worked for Café Pouchkine but is now following personal pursuits.

If you’re lucky enough to visit Paris, Metayer has a few suggestions on how to pick the best shops from among the dozens open in the city. She says shops will either have good bread or good pastry, but rarely both at the same time. Get your bread from one place, but your croissants somewhere else, as the two techniques are difficult to master at the same time.

She also encourages an attention to fine detail. A smooth, shiny finish on the chocolate, for example, is an indication that the pastry will taste as good as it looks.

“It’s a good way to know they made it with love,” said Metayer.

Source: CNN

Diet’s Effect on Gut Bacteria Could Play Role in Reducing Alzheimer’s Risk

Could following a certain type of diet affect the gut microbiome – the good and bad bacteria that live in the gastrointestinal tract – in ways that decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease?

According to researchers at Wake Forest School of Medicine, that is a fair possibility.

In a small pilot study, the researchers identified several distinct gut microbiome signatures – the chemicals produced by bacteria – in study participants with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) but not in their counterparts with normal cognition, and found that these bacterial signatures correlated with higher levels of markers of Alzheimer’s disease in the cerebrospinal fluid of the participants with MCI.

Through cross-group dietary intervention, the study also showed that a modified Mediterranean-ketogenic diet produced changes in the gut microbiome and its metabolites that correlated with reduced levels of Alzheimer’s markers in the members of both study groups.

The study appears in the current issue of EBioMedicine, a journal published by The Lancet.

“The relationship of the gut microbiome and diet to neurodegenerative diseases has recently received considerable attention, and this study suggests that Alzheimer’s disease is associated with specific changes in gut bacteria and that a type of ketogenic Mediterranean diet can affect the microbiome in ways that could impact the development od dementia,” said Hariom Yadav, PhD, assistant professor of molecular medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine, who co-authored the study with Suzanne Craft, PhD, professor gerontology and geriatric medicine at the medical school and director of Wake Forest Baptist Health’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

The randomized, double-blind, single-site study involved 17 older adults, 11 with diagnosed MCI and six with normal cognition. These participants were randomly assigned to follow either the low-carbohydrate modified Mediterranean-ketogenic diet or a low-fat, higher carbohydrate diet for six weeks then, after a six-week “washout” period, to switch to the other diet. Gut microbiome, fecal short-chain fatty acids and markers of Alzheimer’s, including amyloid and tau proteins, in cerebrospinal fluid were measured before and after each dieting period.

The study’s limitations include the subject group’s size, which also accounts for the lack of diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity and age.

“Our findings provide important information that future interventional and clinical studies can be based on,” Yadav said. “Determining the specific role these gut microbiome signatures have in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease could lead to novel nutritional and therapeutic approaches that would be effective against the disease.”

Source: Wake Forest Baptist Health

Why Weight Gain Often Comes With Age

It happens to most aging Americans: Excess pounds pile on, despite efforts to eat right and exercise.

Now, research in fat cells reveals why it’s so tough to stay slim as you get older. The new findings could point to new ways to treat obesity, Swedish investigators say.

A team led by Peter Arner of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm analyzed fat cells taken from 54 men and women over an average of 13 years. People in the study who consumed the same or more calories as they got older had an average 20% weight gain.

Why? According to Arner’s group, fat cells showed age-linked declines in the rate at which fats — lipids — were removed and stored from the cells over time. It’s a process called “lipid turnover.”

The researchers also assessed lipid turnover in 41 women who had weight-loss surgeries, and how their lipid turnover rate affected their ability to maintain their weight loss four to seven years after surgery.

Only the women who had a low cellular lipid turnover rate before the surgery had increases in their rate after the surgery and were able to keep pounds from coming back in the years after the surgery.

The Swedish team suggested that these women may have had more “room” to increase their lipid turnover compared to women who already had a high turnover rate before weight-loss surgery. That gave them an advantage in terms of being able to stay relatively slim.

“The results indicate for the first time that processes in our fat tissue regulate changes in body weight during aging in a way that is independent of other factors,” Arner, a professor of medicine, said in an institute news release.

One U.S. expert in weight loss said the findings make sense, but many other factors are probably involved.

“A normal process of aging is slower metabolic rate. Our body uses less energy to function, and as a result there is less ‘lipolysis,’ or breakdown of fat,” said registered dietitian Sharon Zarabi. She directs the bariatric program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

But, “ultimately, what influences weight loss is our metabolism, microbiome, hormones, nutrient intake, genetics, muscle composition, exercise and environmental toxins — yes, that’s a mouthful,” Zarabi said.

Arner said his team’s findings might “open up new ways to treat obesity.”

Prior research has shown that one way to speed up the lipid turnover in the fat tissue is to boost the amount of exercise you get, Arner noted. The new study supported that theory, and also suggests that increased physical activity might improve weight-loss surgery patients’ long-term chances of success.

And Zarabi stressed that “the good news is that although you can’t control your age, if you are more physically fit and have higher muscle mass, fat breakdown is still possible.”

The new findings were published in Nature Medicine.

Source: HealthDay

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