A New Way to Preserve Healthy Food with Natural Ingredients

Carolyn Trietsch wrote . . . . . . . . .

A natural antioxidant found in grain bran could preserve food longer and replace synthetic antioxidants currently used by the food industry, according to researchers at Penn State.

“Currently, there’s a big push within the food industry to replace synthetic ingredients with natural alternatives, and this is being driven by consumers,” said Andrew S. Elder, doctoral candidate in food science. “Consumers want clean labels — they want synthetic chemical-sounding ingredients removed because of the fact that they don’t recognize them, and that some of them (the ingredients) have purported toxicity.”

The Penn State researchers studied a class of compounds called alkylresorcinols (AR). Plants such as wheat, rye and barley produce ARs naturally to prevent mold, bacteria and other organisms from growing on the grain kernels. The researchers wondered if ARs could also preserve food in the same way from a chemical standpoint.

Along with using more natural ingredients, the food industry is also supplementing more foods with healthy oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Adding these healthy oils to foods that normally would not contain them could boost the health benefits of these foods to consumers. However, omega-3 rich oils have a shorter shelf life, which could cause these foods to spoil more rapidly.

“Most people consume omega-3s from marine sources,” said Elder. “As they break down, they can make the product smell and taste fishy. Consumers then throw these products out and don’t buy them again, and this results in an economic loss.”

Antioxidants are compounds that slow the rate at which omega-3 fatty acids degrade, preserving their health benefits and preventing food from spoiling as quickly. While consumers demand more natural ingredients, the food industry has struggled to find natural antioxidants that are as effective as synthetic ones.

“There are not many natural alternatives for synthetic antioxidants,” said Elder. “Our work is focused on identifying new natural antioxidants to extend the shelf life of food and meet consumer demands.”

ARs have health benefits for humans as well and can help protect against cancer, according to a review published in European Food Research and Technology, making them ideal natural additives. ARs also come from the bran layer of cereal plants, which the food industry usually discards or uses for animal feed.

“Bran is often a waste stream,” said Elder. “We’re taking something that’s usually discarded in a waste stream and turning it into something useful.”

The team developed a technique to extract and purify ARs from rye bran, then studied how well ARs were able to preserve omega-3-rich oils in emulsions, where two fluids do not fully mix — for example, vinegar and oil. The researchers chose to study AR action in emulsions because most people consume oils as emulsions, such as salad dressings. The researchers reported their findings online in Food Chemistry, and the study will be published in the January print edition.

The researchers found that ARs did act as antioxidants in an emulsion, preventing omega-3 oils from spoiling as rapidly as they did in emulsions with no antioxidants added. Then, they compared ARs to two antioxidants widely used by the food industry — alpha-tocopherol or Vitamin E, a natural antioxidant; and butylated hydroxytoluene, a synthetic antioxidant. However, ARs were not as effective as either the natural or the synthetic antioxidant.

Although the ARs did not work as well as other antioxidants in this round of experiments, the researchers noted that their AR extracts were not completely pure, which could have reduced the effectiveness of the ARs. Also, the researchers used a blend of different ARs that had different molecular structures. Future work looking at different types of ARs will reveal whether an individual AR type is more or less effective than conventionally-used antioxidants.

“We’re trying to identify natural antioxidants that are consumer-friendly, safe and effective,” said Elder. “We hope that one day this work will lead to ARs being available on the market and provide more options for the food industry to use.”

Source: The Pennsylvania State University

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Too Much Salt Might Help Spur Irregular Heartbeat

A high-salt diet could raise your risk for a common heart rhythm disorder, new research suggests.

Atrial fibrillation (A-fib) is a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots or other complications. It affects millions of people worldwide and puts them at higher risk for stroke and, in rare cases, can lead to heart failure.

This study included 716 middle-aged men and women in Finland who were followed for an average of 19 years. During that time, 74 of the participants were diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.

Those with the highest levels of salt in their diet had a higher rate of atrial fibrillation than those with the lowest salt intake. After accounting for several other risk factors — including age, body fat, blood pressure and smoking — the researchers found that salt consumption was independently associated with the risk of atrial fibrillation.

But the study only found an association — it did not prove that a high-salt diet causes the heart rhythm disorder.

The study was published recently in the Annals of Medicine.

“This study provides the first evidence that dietary salt may increase the risk of new-onset atrial fibrillation, adding to a growing list of dangers from excessive salt consumption on our cardiovascular health,” said study author Tero Paakko, from the University of Oulu in Finland.

“Although further confirmatory studies are needed, our results suggest that people who are at an increased risk of atrial fibrillation may benefit from restricting salt in their diet,” Paakko said in a journal news release.

The chances of developing atrial fibrillation increase with age, and the condition affects about 7 in 100 people 65 and older.

“With estimates suggesting that over three-quarters of salt consumed is already added in processed foods, reducing salt intake at a population level could have a hugely beneficial impact on new-onset atrial fibrillation and overall cardiovascular disease,” Paakko said.

Source: HealthDay


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Iron-rich Foods for Vegetarians and Vegans

Iron is an essential mineral for health. Although red meat and seafood are good sources of iron, many plant-based foods also contain plenty of this mineral.

Numerous vegetables, legumes, and other foods contain a form of iron called nonheme iron, which accounts for the majority of people’s iron intake in the United States. The type of iron in animal products is called heme iron.

Although the body can absorb it more easily, heme iron is not essential to the human diet.

By selecting the right foods, people eating a vegetarian or vegan diet can meet their daily iron requirements without needing to take supplements.

Lentils

Lentils are rich in iron, protein, and fiber, making them a great addition to a healthful diet. Each cup of cooked lentils contains 6.59 milligrams (mg) of iron and 17.86 grams (g) of protein.

Lentils also contain many other nutrients, including B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.

Research suggests that eating lentils on a regular basis reduces the risk of diabetes, obesity, cancer, and heart disease.

People can include brown, red, or green lentils in soups, stews, curries, salads, and other meals.

Cannellini beans

Cannellini beans, or white kidney beans, provide 5.2 mg of iron per cup.

As with lentils, the protein and fiber content of beans makes them a healthful option. They also contain many other essential minerals and plant compounds.

Several studies support the consumption of beans to reduce the risk of heart disease and related conditions.

Other types of bean, including those below, also contain high amounts of iron per cup:

  • garbanzo beans, or chickpeas: 4.74 mg
  • black-eyed peas: 3.59 mg
  • red kidney beans: 3.59 mg

Beans are a very versatile food, and they work well as an ingredient in many dishes, including tacos, chili, soups, salads, and bean dips.

Tofu

Tofu is a bean curd that manufacturers make by coagulating the milk from soybeans. It is popular among vegans and vegetarians as it contains significant amounts of protein, iron, and calcium. A half-cup serving of tofu contains 6.65 mg of iron and about 10 g of protein.

Some research suggests that soy products reduce the risk of heart disease, breast cancer, and prostate cancer. Tempeh and natto are other soy products that contain iron and may provide additional health benefits.

Tofu is available in several different forms, including firm, soft, and silken. People can grill or fry firm tofu to use as a meat substitute, add soft tofu to casseroles, and blend silken tofu with cocoa powder and a sweetener to make a delicious chocolate dessert.

Amaranth

This ancient grain is gluten-free and provides 5.17 mg of iron per cooked cup along with over 9 g of protein.

It also contains many other nutrients that are essential for health, including fiber, manganese, and magnesium.

A 2012 review of research on the amaranth grain suggests that it has antioxidant and antitumor effects, reduces cholesterol and blood sugar levels, boosts immune function, and improves high blood pressure and anemia.

Other grains that provide plenty of iron include quinoa and steel-cut oats.

Fortified cereals

Many types of breakfast cereal, including oats, contain iron that manufacturers add during processing. Fortified grains are a vital source of this mineral, providing approximately half of all dietary iron in the U.S.

People should look for fortified breakfast cereals that contain 100 percent of the daily value of iron per serving.

While these cereals are generally suitable for vegetarians, vegans should check if the product also has added vitamin D. Not all vitamin D sources are vegan-friendly.

Dark chocolate

Although chocolate is traditionally a dessert food, a 3-ounce serving of dark chocolate provides 7 mg of iron.

Cocoa is also one of the best sources of flavonoid antioxidants, which may provide heart benefits, protect nerves, boost immunity, and improve cognitive function and mood.

While dark chocolate is an iron-rich food, it is high in calories, so people should enjoy it as an occasional treat.

Baked potatoes

Potatoes, especially their skins, are a good source of iron. A medium potato in its skin provides 2 mg of iron.

Potatoes are a staple food in many cultures and can benefit health in numerous ways. They are a source of carbohydrates, dietary fiber, resistant starch, vitamin C, and potassium.

For a complete meal, people can top baked potatoes with cottage cheese, hummus, beans, or lentils and serve them with vegetables or salad.

It is best to avoid adding a lot of butter, oil, or cheese to the potatoes as this increases the fat and calorie content of the meal.

Spinach

Spinach is low in calories but high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. One cup of cooked spinach provides 6.43 mg of iron.

Most people find it easy to incorporate more spinach into their diets by sautéing or steaming the vegetable and adding it to soups and stir-fries. Raw spinach can also be an ingredient in smoothies and salads.

Dried apricots

A cup of dried apricot halves contains 4.1 mg of iron. Dried fruits are also rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They make ideal snacks as they are easy to eat on the go.

However, dried fruit is also high in sugar and calories. To avoid weight gain or the effects of too much sugar, people should enjoy dried apricots in moderation.

Hulled hemp seeds

A 3-tablespoon serving of hulled hemp seeds contains 2.38 mg of iron and over 9 grams of protein. These seeds are one of the few plant-based sources of omega-3 fats, which are essential for heart and brain health.

A 2018 study reported that hemp seed extract demonstrated antioxidant effects in laboratory tests. These antioxidant benefits, coupled with the omega-3 content of the seeds, may help protect against heart problems and neurodegenerative diseases.

People can sprinkle hemp seeds on oatmeal, yogurt, or desserts, or blend them into smoothies for a snack that is rich in iron and protein.

How much iron do you need?

The National Institutes of Health recommend that women over the age of 50 years and all adult men get 8 mg of iron daily.

Women aged between 19 and 50 years should aim for 18 mg per day, while pregnant women require 27 mg of iron for fetal health.

However, some sources suggest that vegetarians and vegans may need up to 1.8 times these amounts because the body does not absorb nonheme iron as easily as it does heme iron.

A person can increase the amount of iron that their body absorbs from plant-based sources by eating iron-rich foods alongside a source of vitamin C.

Source: Medical News Today

Cute Character Sugar

Sitting on the rim of your cup of tea

Study: Many Supplements Contain Unapproved, Dangerous Ingredients

Alan Mozes wrote . . . . . . . . .

U.S. health officials have issued more than 700 warnings during the last decade about the sale of dietary supplements that contain unapproved and potentially dangerous drug ingredients, new research reveals.

In nearly all cases (98 percent), the presence of such ingredients was not noted anywhere on supplement labeling, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found.

From 2007 to 2016, the lion’s share of FDA warnings — 46 percent — concerned supplements that touted enhanced sexual pleasure, while weight-loss products were cited in 41 percent of the warnings. Most of the remaining warnings (12 percent) concerned supplements marketed as muscle-builders, the findings showed.

The tainted-supplement problem appears to have grown in scope in recent years, with 57 percent of all warnings having been issued since 2012, the researchers said.

“Over the past decade, ever since I first began tracking the problem, I have only seen the number of supplements adulterated with drugs increase rapidly,” said Dr. Pieter Cohen. He is a general internist with the Cambridge Health Alliance, and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

“Back in 2009, it appeared that there might be less than 150 brands of supplements that contain drugs,” he added. “Now it’s clear that there are well over 1,000 brands of supplements that contain active drugs.”

Cohen is the author an editorial that accompanies the new analysis, which was published online Oct. 12 in JAMA Network Open. The study was led by Madhur Kumar, of the California Department of Public Health’s Food and Drug Branch.

Kumar’s team noted that more than half of all American adults routinely take some form of dietary supplement, with estimated annual sales of $35 billion.

The FDA explicitly warns that supplements aren’t a replacement for either over-the-counter or prescription medications, and should not be viewed as a way to treat or prevent disease.

The agency classifies dietary supplements — including vitamins, minerals, botanicals, amino acids and enzymes — under the category of food, rather than drugs.

That distinction is important.

“Supplements are handled completely different than either prescription medications or over-the-counter drugs,” Cohen explained. “Those two categories are carefully vetted by the FDA. Supplements are not vetted by the FDA, and do not require that any evidence of safety or efficacy is presented to the agency before they are sold to consumers.”

The FDA’s Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 essentially places the burden for evaluating supplement safety, content and labeling primarily on the shoulders of the manufacturers.

Experts point out that this arrangement means that, while the FDA has the authority to remove from the market any supplement reported as causing harm, as a practical matter it does so only after the fact. This raises the risk for a wide range of “serious adverse events” involving tainted supplements — including stroke, kidney failure, liver injuries, blood clots and even death — critics of the arrangement contend.

The study team said prior estimates suggest that such events result in roughly 23,000 emergency department visits and 2,000 hospitalizations in the United States every year.

The new analysis reviewed a decade’s worth of information contained in an FDA database titled “Tainted Products Marketed as Dietary Supplements.”

Almost 800 tainted warnings were issued during the review period for supplements manufactured by 147 different companies, though some involved multiple warnings about the same supplement, the study authors said.

About 20 percent of the warnings identified products containing more than one unapproved ingredient, the investigators found. Sildenafil (commonly known as Viagra) was the ingredient in nearly half of the warnings concerning sexual enhancement supplements.

Sibutramine — an appetite suppressant taken off the market in 2010 due to cardiovascular risks — was cited in nearly 85 percent of weight-loss supplements, according to the report.

And among muscle-building supplements, synthetic steroids or steroid-like ingredients were the cause for concern nearly 90 percent of the time, the researchers said.

Cohen said any meaningful solution will require a change in the laws that govern the way the FDA monitors supplements. Barring that, you should “ask your doctor if you need to take supplements,” he advised.

“If your doctor doesn’t advise supplements for your health, then they will likely not help you,” Cohen stressed. “However, for my patients who still want to use supplements, I advise them to purchase supplements that list only one ingredient on the label and to avoid any supplement that has a health claim on the label, such as improving immunity or strengthening muscles.”

Source: HealthDay