Researcher Finds Fats and Oils Help Unlock Full Nutritional Benefits of Veggies

The song says a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but an Iowa State University scientist has published new research suggesting a spoonful of oil makes vegetables more nutritious.

A new study led by Wendy White, an associate professor of food science and human nutrition, shows that eating salad with added fat in the form of soybean oil promotes the absorption of eight different micronutrients that promote human health. Conversely, eating the same salad without the added oil lessens the likelihood that the body will absorb the nutrients.

The study appeared recently in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and the results may ease the guilt of countless dieters who fret about adding dressing to their salads.

White’s study found added oil aided in the absorption of seven different micronutrients in salad vegetables. Those nutrients include four carotenoids – alpha and beta carotene, lutein and lycopene – two forms of vitamin E and vitamin K. The oil also promoted the absorption of vitamin A, the eighth micronutrient tracked in the study, which formed in the intestine from the alpha and beta carotene. The new study builds on previous research from White’s group that focused on alpha and beta carotene and lycopene.

White said better absorption of the nutrients promotes a range of health benefits, including cancer prevention and eyesight preservation.

The study also found that the amount of oil added to the vegetables had a proportional relationship with the amount of nutrient absorption. That is, more oil means more absorption.

“The best way to explain it would be to say that adding twice the amount of salad dressing leads to twice the nutrient absorption,” White said.

That doesn’t give salad eaters license to drench their greens in dressing, she cautioned. But she said consumers should be perfectly comfortable with the U.S. dietary recommendation of about two tablespoons of oil per day.

The study included 12 college-age women who consumed salads with various levels of soybean oil, a common ingredient in commercial salad dressings. The subjects then had their blood tested to measure the absorption of nutrients. Women were chosen for the trial due to differences in the speed with which men and women metabolize the nutrients in question.

The results showed maximal nutrient absorption occurred at around 32 grams of oil, which was the highest amount studied, or a little more than two tablespoons. However, White said she found some variability among the subjects.

“For most people, the oil is going to benefit nutrient absorption,” she said. “The average trend, which was statistically significant, was for increased absorption.”

Research collaborators include Yang Zhou, a former ISU postdoctoral researcher; Agatha Agustiana Crane, a former graduate research assistant in food science and human nutrition; Philip Dixon, a University Professor of Statistics, and Frits Quadt of Quadt Consultancy, among others.

Unilever, a global food company, provided funding for the research. The company had no input in the publication of the study.

So a spoonful or two of salad dressing may indeed help you derive the optimal nutritional benefit from your veggies. The relationship between a spoonful of sugar and the medicine going down, however, remains outside the scope of White’s research.

Source: Iowa State University of Science and Technology

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Study: Zinc Can Halt the Growth of Cancer Cells

Zinc supplements can significantly inhibit the proliferation of esophageal cancer cells, according to a new study co-authored by a University of Texas at Arlington researcher.

Previous studies had shown that zinc is essential for maintaining human health and protects the esophagus from cancer. However, it has never been fully understood why zinc has the ability to prevent cancer in the esophagus. In this study, a team led by Zui Pan, an associate professor of nursing at UTA’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation and a noted esophageal cancer researcher, discovered that zinc selectively halts the growth of cancer cells but not normal esophageal epithelial cells. The finding was published this month in The FASEB Journal, the official journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

Esophageal cancer is the sixth leading cause of human cancer deaths around the world, according to the National Cancer Institute. The institute estimates that there were almost 16,000 esophageal cancer deaths in the United States in 2016. The average five-year survival rate is less than 20 percent.

Pan said this study could provide a pathway for better esophageal cancer prevention and treatment.

“Zinc deficiency has been found in many cancer patients,” said Pan, whose study was funded in part by a research grant from the National Institutes of Health – National Cancer Insitute. “Both clinical data and animal studies have shown that this mineral is very important for overall body health and for cancer prevention.”

Zinc is an important element in many proteins and many enzymes and the absence of zinc makes it impossible for cells to function, she added.

“But previously we didn’t know why the same physiological concentrations of zinc inhibit cancer cell growth but not normal cells. Our study, for the first time to our knowledge, reveals that zinc impedes overactive calcium signals in cancer cells, which is absent in normal cells, and thus zinc selectively inhibits cancer cell growth.” said Pan. “It now appears that zinc and calcium can have a cross talk, meaning that they can be linked.”

An insufficient amount of zinc can lead to the development of cancers and other diseases, Pan said.

“That’s why it is important to have a good diet,” she said.

Zinc enriched foods include spinach, flax seeds, beef, pumpkin seeds and seafood like shrimp and oysters.

Pan said that in the future they will study these two signals link, how they impact each other and how researchers can take advantage of what they know. Such a step will guide them in developing a better prevention and treatment strategy, she said.

Anne Bavier, dean of UTA’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation, called Pan’s study a classic example of UTA’s commitment to high impact research.

“It re-affirms UTA’s position as a major player in the global battle against cancer,” said Bavier. “Zui’s work on esophageal cancer gets straight to the heart our goal at the College of Nursing and Health Innovation to help solve health problems to build a healthier world.”

Source: The University of Texas at Arlington

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Person: Michael Jacobson – A Pioneer Of Food Activism

Dan Charles wrote . . . . . . .

If you are the kind of person who picks up a box of food in the store and studies the label to see how much sugar or salt is in it, you can thank a man named Michael Jacobson.

Those labels with nutritional facts are a part of Jacobson’s legacy, one of his many victories in a four-decade-long battle against “junk food.” He has also had a hand in halting the marketing of many sugar-filled foods to children, reducing salt levels in packaged foods, and banning transfats. Next week, he’s stepping down, after 46 years, as president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C.

Jacobson is a paradoxical character. When he’s quoted in a news story, he typically sounds ferocious. But in person, he’s soft-spoken and chooses his words carefully. He’ll break into a friendly, wide-eyed smile while insulting the nutritional quality of your favorite breakfast cereal.

He is a food activist who doesn’t really love food. When he was growing up, he didn’t really care or notice whether the food he was eating was healthy. “You know, I’m a kid from Chicago. So a hot dog on a white bun, with relish, that’s what you eat!” he says.

He found his calling by accident, in 1970. He was 26 years old, on track toward a career as an academic scientist. He’d just received his doctorate in microbiology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But he’d also been caught up in the political ferment of the time.

“I loved laboratory research,” he says. “My experiments worked well. But I saw cities burning down, Vietnam being toasted to a crisp, and I thought, ‘Do I want to spend all my time in a lab, or could I be doing something using my background that would have a more direct involvement in trying to improve society?’ ”

He landed an internship with Ralph Nader’s newly founded group of activist lawyers. Nader had become a household name a few years before that, by fighting the auto industry on behalf of consumers.

Jacobson showed up on the first day, “and Ralph says, ‘OK, here’s Jacobson, he’s got a Ph.D. from MIT in microbiology. What could he do?'”

One of Nader’s associates, Jim Turner, had been investigating the Food and Drug Administration and proposed that Jacobson write a book about the safety of food additives. At the time, some people were starting to worry about what might be in all the packaged foods filling supermarket shelves.

Once he started digging into the subject, Jacobson decided that the problem wasn’t so much the additives, it was the all-natural sugar, saturated fats and salt that companies were putting into their products.

In 1971, he and two co-workers set up the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). It combined scientific expertise with a shrewd sense of how to capture public attention. “We were very anti-establishment, countercultural, really took every opportunity to slam the food industry,” Jacobson says.

Originally, CSPI worked on a variety of issues, but after Jacobson’s co-founders left, it focused solely on food.

In those early days, CSPI did a lot of things just to get attention — and to raise money. It sold hundreds of thousands of colorful posters rating foods according to their nutritional value. “The sales of those posters really helped keep CSPI alive in the early 1970s,” Jacobson says.

They organized a Food Day, modeled on Earth Day, with concerts and other public events in cities across the country; sent a bag full of extracted, decayed teeth to the Food and Drug Administration, to illustrate the dangers of sugar; and invited journalists to watch them measure the calories and salt in restaurant meals.

Some mementos from those rabble-rousing days are on display in the lobby of CSPI’s office. “This is the coin release from a vending machine,” Jacobson says with a smile of satisfaction, pointing to one shiny piece of metal. “We had a vending machine smash-in at a Food Day event in Portland, Ore. It was a lot of fun. This is all that’s left.”

The display case also includes a copy of the first Nutrition Action newsletter, CSPI’s flagship publication, which became the biggest nutrition-focused publication in the country. It delivered advice on what foods to eat and avoid, summarized the latest nutrition research, and rallied public support for CSPI’s campaigns. In the 1990s, the newsletter had nearly a million subscribers, and sales covered most of the organization’s budget.

Jacobson’s message hasn’t changed much over the years, but his organization has, and so have its tactics.

Today, CSPI has a staff of 50, and its Washington, D.C., offices could easily be mistaken for those of a trade association or law firm. “It’s a long way from our scruffy offices with flooded basements,” Jacobson says.

Instead of just organizing public protests, CSPI is now more likely to take lawsuits accusing food companies of deceptive labeling, or of targeting children with advertisements for unhealthy food. “We’ve had quite a good success rate in getting change,” Jacobson says. “Maybe that’s when the industry really took us seriously, because when you go to court, you’re playing on a pretty level playing field.”

If he had it to do over again, he says, “I would have hired more lawyers, earlier,” he says. “Lawyers know the rules of the game. Scientists don’t.”

He has one other regret; he wishes he had realized earlier the value of talking to adversaries and allies alike. “In my early days, when I’d meet a corporate executive, I would just as soon yell at them as talk to them,” he says. “Now I realize that those people know a lot more than I know about certain things, and that having a reasonable conversation makes sense.”

Some corporate executives, for their part, say they’ve come to respect him.

“The restaurant industry, for many years, believed that Mike’s theatrics were trivial and nonsensical,” says Jonathan Blum, a former executive with Yum! Brands, the parent company of Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut. Calling fettuccine Alfredo a “heart attack on a plate,” he says, “wasn’t helpful and didn’t change behavior in anyone.” But after Jacobson became more open to conversations with industry, “we all took him more seriously,” Blum says. “He’s been a force to reckon with. I think he’s done a terrific job for consumers, working reasonably with the industry and legislators.

“Mike is driven by his heart, and he is also a scientist,” says Richard Black, a former executive at Kraft Foods and at Pepsi. “You do well to listen to his arguments and the science that he’s using to support those arguments, because more than likely there will be something there that you need to pay attention to.”

Black appreciated Jacobson’s openness about his goals, as well as his tactics. “He’d say, ‘Look, we think you’re doing something misleading, and if you don’t address it, we’ll probably end up suing you.’ It was …. honesty, not in an angry or mean manner, but actually trying to get something done.”

Some of Jacobson’s critics, and many journalists — also one journalistic impostor, Stephen Glass, who published a fraudulent profile of Jacobson in The New Republic in 1996 — have portrayed him as the nation’s food scold, intent on taking all the pleasure out of eating.

Jacobson says that’s a cheap shot. “We never said you have to be pure,” he says. “It’s perfectly fine to eat a little junk from time to time.” It’s true, he personally gave up hot dogs, and eventually all meat. But he still puts sugar in his tea.

After 40 years of trying to change America’s food habits, Jacobson has come to terms with the fact that those habits change very slowly, if at all. Nutrition labels, for instance, “haven’t generated as much change as we hoped.”

Jacobson has been successful in persuading food companies to make healthier products, but many consumers refuse to buy them. “Still, people are eating a pretty junky diet,” Jacobson says. “One of the saddest things is fruits and vegetables. Despite all the free publicity that fruits and vegetables get, requirements in school food programs, farmers markets everywhere, fruit and vegetable consumption has not increased in 20 years.”

Despite all that, he’s optimistic. “When I think back to supermarkets when I got into the food biz in the early 1970s, you couldn’t find whole wheat bread, you couldn’t find brown rice, you couldn’t find yogurt,” he says. “There have been such huge changes! I think our culture clearly is moving in a much healthier direction. And industry will follow. Industry is following.”

Jacobson, who’s 74 years old, is vacating his corner office at CSPI on Sept. 12, but he won’t leave the organization entirely. He will work half-time as a senior scientist.

Source: npr

Benefits and Risks of Eating Organ Meats

Tom Seymour wrote . . . . . . .

Organ meats are sometimes referred to as “offal”. The word offal derives from the term “off fall”, referring to any part of an animal that falls away when it is butchered, such as the tail, feet, and testicles.

In the United States, organ meats include all things that are distinguished as offal. On the other hand, most meats Americans are used to eating are muscle meats, while organ meats are not considered a staple of the Western diet.

Organ meats carry some risks, however, as well as benefits, when they are consumed, despite their nutritional value.

What is organ meat?

There are several different types of organ meats, some of which are better known than others including:

  • liver
  • heart
  • kidneys
  • sweetbreads
  • brain
  • tongue
  • tripe

Organ meats are sometimes referred to as “super foods” because they are dense sources of vitamins and nutrients, including:

  • vitamin B
  • iron
  • phosphorus
  • copper
  • magnesium
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin D
  • vitamin E
  • vitamin K

Across the world, many different cultures like to use an animal in its entirety for food, including making use of the blood, bones, and organs.

In the natural world, predatory animals are known to value the organs of their prey and, for example, to eat the liver first because it is so densely packed with nutrients.

Benefits of eating organ meats

Here is a breakdown of some of the most common organ meats and their benefits:


Liver is the most nutrient dense organ meat, and it is a powerful source of vitamin A. Vitamin A is beneficial for eye health and for reducing diseases that cause inflammation, including everything from Alzheimer’s disease to arthritis.

Liver also contains folic acid, iron, chromium, copper, and zinc and is known to be particularly good for the heart and for increasing hemoglobin level in the blood.


Rich in nutrients and proteins, kidney meat contains omega 3 fatty acids. It is also known to contain anti-inflammatory properties and to be good for the heart.


Brain meat contains omega 3 fatty acids and nutrients. The latter include phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylserine, which are good for the nervous system.

The antioxidants obtained by eating brain meat are also helpful in protecting the human brain and spinal cord from damage.


The heart is rich in folate, iron, zinc, and selenium. It is also a great source of vitamins B2, B6, and B12, all three of which are in a group known as B-complex vitamins.

B vitamins found in organ meats have a cardioprotective effect, meaning they protect against heart disease.

B vitamins are also associated with maintaining healthy blood pressure, reducing high cholesterol, and forming healthy blood vessels. They are beneficial to the brain and have been found to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, depression, and anxiety.

Heart meat is also a great source of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). This is an antioxidant and can help treat and prevent certain diseases, particularly heart disease.

CoQ10 has been shown to slow down the aging process and to improve energy levels.


Tongue meat is rich in calories and fatty acids, as well as zinc, iron, choline, and vitamin B12. This meat is considered especially beneficial for those recovering from illness or for women who are pregnant.

Folate is the vitamin in organ meats considered beneficial for fertility and for helping avoid fetal defects in a baby, such as spina bifida and heart problems. In addition, vitamin B6 can help during the morning sickness phase of pregnancy.

Are there risks of eating organ meat?

Organ meats are high in cholesterol and saturated fat. Contrary to popular belief, cholesterol and saturated fat are now thought to be important for a balanced diet, but they must be consumed in moderation.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) dietary guidelines state that saturated fats should be limited to 10 percent or less of an individual’s calories.

However, for adults who need to lower their cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends that saturated fat should not make up more than 5-6 percent of daily intake of calories.

It is also widely believed that people who have gout should avoid eating organ meats, as they contain purine, a molecule associated with gout flare-ups.

Furthermore, there can be a concern that animals that have been exposed to toxins and pesticides will have toxicity in their organs. It is important to remember, however, that while organs, such as the liver and kidneys, act as filters for toxins that enter the body, they excrete those toxins and do not store them.

Organ meat quality

It is vital to know how the animals whose organs are being eaten were raised before slaughter.

Aside from the moral implications, organ meats obtained from stressed and mistreated animals can cause all sorts of problems.

For example, fatty deposits can often build up, particularly around the heart and kidneys. Essentially, if the animal has led an unhealthy life, their internal organs will not be healthy either.

It is recommended that organ meats should be sourced from a farm that uses organic practices and puts its animals out for pasture.

Takeaway message

Many organ meats have a high nutritional value and can be very beneficial to the human body in many ways.

That said, there are risks to eating too much organ meats, and anyone considering making significant dietary changes should consult their doctor first, and ensure they have thoroughly researched the pros and cons.

In general, though, as long as eaten in moderation, organ meats can be a healthful and regular part of a balanced diet.

Source: Medical News Today

Avocados May be Good for the Eyes and Brain

A study published in the journal Nutrients suggests that consuming one fresh avocado per day may lead to improved cognitive function in healthy older adults due to increased lutein levels in the brain and eye.

The research tracked how 40 healthy adults aged 50+ who ate one fresh avocado a day for six months experienced a 25% increase in lutein levels in their eyes and significantly improved working memory and problem-solving skills. Lutein is a carotenoid, or pigment, commonly found in fruits and vegetables that accumulates in the blood, eye, and brain and may act as an anti-inflammatory agent and antioxidant.

As study participants incorporated one medium avocado into their daily diet, researchers monitored gradual growth in the amount of lutein in their eyes and progressive improvement in cognition skills as measured by tests designed to evaluate memory, processing speed, and attention levels. In contrast, the control group—which did not eat avocados—experienced fewer improvements in cognitive health during the study period.

These findings are based on the consumption of one whole avocado each day (369 mcg lutein). Additional research is needed to determine whether the results could be replicated with consumption of the recognized serving size of 1/3 of an avocado per day (136 mcg lutein). The control diet included either one medium potato or one cup of chickpeas in place of the avocado. Chickpeas and potatoes were used as the control diet because they provided a similar level of calories, but a negligible amount of lutein and monounsaturated fats.

“The results of this study suggest that the monounsaturated fats, fiber, lutein, and other bioactives make avocados particularly effective at enriching neural lutein levels, which may provide benefits for not only eye health, but for brain health,” said Elizabeth Johnson, lead investigator of the study from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.

Source: Institute of Food Technologists

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