February 2015

View or Print a Copy of the Entire February 2015 Issue of Environmental Nutrition

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EN’s GMO Food Guide

Subscribers Only - If you spoke to shoppers at the supermarket several years ago, many of them would not be familiar with the term “GMO” (genetically modified organism,) a labeling term that is often used to refer to genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. Fast forward several years, and the term GMO has become commonplace. In many cases, it is connected with the ‘Right to Know’ movement associated with labeling ballot initiatives (see box, GMO Labeling Update). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not mandate labels for foods containing GE ingredients. In contrast, 64 countries outside the U.S. require mandatory labeling of GE foods. It is estimated that more than 75 percent of foods in supermarkets contain GE ingredients. Consumer Reports found that numerous packaged foods contained GE ingredients, including those labeled “natural.” If you’re concerned about GMOs, here is a guide to identifying GE foods and ingredients in the marketplace.

Package Nutrition Symbols Do Not Equal Health

Products that show front-of-pack (FOP) nutrition symbols may not be any healthier than those without them, according to researchers. They found that, though nearly 20 percent of products used FOP symbols indicating nutritional issues of public concern (such as lower calories and saturated fat, sugar and sodium content), foods that were more nutritious overall did not use FOP symbols.

“On and Off” Diets May not Work

What’s the best way to lose weight? That’s the question that spurs the $20 billion per year U.S. weight loss industry. Increasingly, research suggests that an array of popular weight loss diets can help you lose weight, but over the long term they may not be so effective.

Safety Concerns Addressed for Elderberry and Kombucha

Subscribers Only - Elderberry has been treasured for centuries as traditional medicine to treat skin conditions and respiratory illnesses, such as colds and flu. However, unripe elderberries and other parts of the elder tree, such as the fresh leaves, flowers, young buds, and roots, should not be eaten as they contain a bitter alkaloid and a glucoside that can be toxic, resulting in nausea and vomiting, and, potentially, more serious side effects. The ripe blue or purple berries are edible (cooking is highly recommended) and are often used in pies, jams, or wine.

Chamomile’s Calming Properties May Be Real

Subscribers Only - There’s nothing quite like a cup of hot chamomile tea to soothe frayed nerves. In fact, dried chamomile flowers ( Matricaria recutita ) were used as far back as Roman times for their calming effects. Today, an increasing number of studies indicate there may be some true relaxing benefits in a fragrant cup of chamomile tea.

Better Nutrition Facts on Sugar Labels

Subscribers Only - It may become easier to figure out how much sugar you’re really getting in foods. In February 2014, the Food and Drug Administration released proposed changes to the nutrition facts label on foods, which include a plan to better highlight information on added sugars. This change was primarily guided by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which suggested that reduction of added sugars was a primary target for optimal health.

The Latest Diet Strategies for Heart Health

Subscribers Only - After three-and-a-half days of presentations on nutrition research at the American Heart Association (AHA) conference, here’s EN’s take-away on today’s big questions on heart health.

Lifting the Lid on Coffee Shop Drinks

Subscribers Only - Long gone are the days when your only decision to make when ordering coffee was “cream or sugar.” Now you need to think about what type of milk (whole, low-fat, skim, soy, or almond), cream (whipped or plain), and even temperature (hot or cold.) In addition, there’s an array of flavor pumps to choose from, such as hazelnut, cinnamon, pumpkin, mocha, peppermint, white chocolate, and more.

10 Whole Grain Myths Busted

Subscribers Only - At first glance, whole grains, such as whole wheat, barley, quinoa, and brown rice, may not seem like a controversial topic, but misconceptions and half-truths abound, creating barriers to meeting the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommendation to consume at least three servings of whole grains a day. Environmental Nutrition attended the conference, Whole Grains: Breaking Barriers in November 2014. The conference was organized by Oldways, a Boston-based nonprofit food and nutrition organization. Here’s what we learned about whole grains—whole wheat in particular—to set the record straight.

Mini Meals vs. Three Squares

Subscribers Only - It’s a popular notion that eating smaller, more frequent meals, such as six small meals a day, is a healthier approach than the traditional three square meals a day. Some people believe eating more frequently may help keep their hunger under better control and their metabolism revved up. But some experts are concerned that the more often you eat, the greater your opportunity to overeat. Here’s help making sense of these mixed messages.

Orange Zest Appeal

Subscribers Only - Oranges, native to Southeast Asia, date back 7,000 years when different varieties were grown in parts of India. They arrived in Europe, where they were mostly used medicinally, in the 15th century. From there, Spanish explorers brought oranges to the New World in the 16th century, when missionaries planted orange trees in Florida, and later, California—two states well-known for their orange groves. These citrus gems were highly prized and expensive before the 20th century, eaten only on special holidays, like Christmas. Fortunately, this popular fruit is much more accessible today!

Research Roundup: February 2015

Daily fruit juice consumption may increase blood pressure, according to Australian researchers. Despite its health halo, fruit juices have high levels of natural sugars, without the amount of fiber found in whole fruit. Excess sugars have been associated with high blood pressure. Habitual fruit juice consumption was measured over 12 months in 160 adults who answered a dietary recall questionnaire. Those who drank juice most frequently, versus occasionally or rarely, had the highest blood pressure.