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April 2017 Issue

Ask the EN Experts: April 2017

Diet Trends Impact Your Dinner Plate

If it seems to you that attitudes about diet have shifted over the past year, your suspicions are correct. According to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2016 Food and Health Survey, which included 1,003 American adults, the food dialogue has gained momentum in the past year. A reported 31 percent of respondents changed their minds about dietary components. The media was a top influencer for our more negative view of refined grains, saturated fats, added sugars, and low-calorie sweeteners, and more positive view of whole grains, plant proteins, and natural sugars.

People increasingly want to know how their food is produced, with 44 percent reading a book or article or watching a movie about the food system (about one-fourth of those changed their food decisions based on what they read or viewed) and more people trusting locally grown foods. More Americans (47 percent) look at the ingredients lists of foods, defining healthy as what isn’t in a food (namely fat and sugar) rather than what is in it. A healthy eating style was defined as “limited or no artificial ingredients or preservatives” by 41 percent of respondents. Americans are still trying to lose weight (57 percent) and be more active (78 percent). And one-fourth changed their diets in the past year, most notably by eating more fruits and vegetables and making small changes. All in all, these are positive changes for Americans. Now let’s see if it moves the needle on health outcomes.

Sharon Palmer, RDN, EDN Editor

Raw Milk Safety; Yohimbe Supplements Reviewed

Pausinystalia yohimbe tree bark

Kanusommer |

Bark from the Pausinystalia yohimbe tree is used in yohimbe supplements.

Q: Is raw milk cheese good for you?

A: Europeans have been eating raw milk cheeses for centuries without much concern about contracting a foodborne illness. Raw milk contains many pathogens, magnified in some cases by poor treatment of the animal and poor sanitation. Pathogens found in raw milk such as Listeria, E.coli, salmonella and others can cause severe illness and even death. These pathogens are for the most part killed by pasteurization, while the process does not appreciably change the flavor and nutritional profile of the cheese. In the U.S., a cheese made with raw milk is only considered safe to eat if it has been aged for 60 days, during which time it is believed that the dangerous bacteria will be eliminated. This arbitrarily chosen time limit has not been corroborated by scientific evidence. Cheese lovers believe that raw milk cheeses taste better and offer some health benefits, including improved digestion and better tolerance by allergy sufferers. But it is impossible to ensure the safety of cheese made from raw milk, so pregnant women, young children, and those with compromised immune systems should not consume any cheese made with raw milk.

Sharon Salomon, MS, RD

Q: Are yohimbe supplements safe and effective?

A: The active ingredient in the supplement known as yohimbe is yohimbine, an alkaloid from the bark of the Pausinystalia yohimbe tree, which is native to Africa. The supposed benefits of yohimbe supplements range from treating sexual problems like erectile dysfunction to weight loss and improved athletic performance. Unfortunately, the research on the supplement is limited and some concerns have been raised about the amount of the active ingredient, yohimbine, found in these supplements because they are unregulated.

Yohimbine hydrochloride, on the other hand, is a man-made substance that is prescribed for impotence and erectile dysfunction and requires FDA approval. Undoubtedly, the supplemental version benefits from the popularity and effectiveness of the prescription drug. Some supplements are even labeled ‘Yohimbine HCL,’ which is yohimbine extract with added hydrochloride, not Yohimbine hydrochloride. If you are confused, you are not alone!

Regarding weight loss, there are a few studies that suggest yohimbe may have a positive physiological effect on fat burning, but the research uses high-quality extracts that may be difficult for consumers to find. As with most supplements, there is no magic pill to replace a healthy lifestyle.

Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD