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Will New Dietary Guidelines Shift Americans Toward Healthy Eating Patterns?

FoodMinds InfographicOn January 7, health professionals and policymakers heralded the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), updated to reflect current nutrition science. The DGAs provide evidence-based healthy eating principles for the public to reduce the risk of chronic disease and maintain a healthy weight. The document is published jointly by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) and Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS) every five years, and this newest edition will serve as a foundation for nutrition policy and programming through 2020.

According to a word content analysis conducted by FoodMinds, one of the most marked evolutions in the DGAs is the emphasis on overall healthy dietary patterns across the life span. To me, this holistic approach to healthy eating represents a shift in how we’re talking about nutrition and health. Continue reading

Imbalance, not meat, to blame for disease

Steak on dinner plateDiets high in red and processed meat have long been shown in epidemiological studies to be associated with increased cancer risk. The World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AIRC) labeled processed meat as a “probable carcinogen” and red meat as a “possible carcinogen” based on an extensive analysis of the literature. Using only those studies that met the rigor of inclusion, 19 of 33 studies showed a link between increased cancer risk and the consumption of red or processed meat.

While this was a majority of the studies, a fairly substantial number (14 of 33) failed to show a statistically significant association. Furthermore, while red meat was categorized as a cancer risk in the same category as asbestos and cigarettes, the degree of risk is orders of magnitude different—the increased hazard from processed meat was 0.18 fold compared with cigarettes at more than 20 fold. Continue reading

FDA’s New Guidelines for Added Sugars on Food Labels

Nutrition Facts labelAs the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nears the finish line for issuing its new Nutrition Facts panel guidelines for food products, perhaps the most contested aspect is the proposed addition of added sugars.

This past July, the FDA amended its original proposal, which would require listing the amount of added sugars in grams, to also require listing how much added sugars a food contains relative to a total daily limit—a measure called the percent daily value, or %DV. FDA’s recommended %DV calls for the daily intake of calories from added sugars to not exceed 10% of total calories.

Although these kinds of labeling changes may seem relatively minor, their potential costs are hardly insignificant for food entrepreneurs, small food businesses, restaurants, and national and international manufacturers. Continue reading

The Limbic System Wins—Or Does It?

The Gluten LieFood myths and beliefs are deeply rooted in people since they are connected to the emotional or limbic system of the brain. And research shows that rational arguments are often not taken into consideration when someone is embarking on a health change like dieting or purchasing products.

In the June Food Technology Food, Medicine & Health column, I discussed the importance of communicating science and how fragile the communication system is today. As one of my examples, I drew attention to Alan Levinovitz, author of The Gluten Lie. At first blush one might wonder why a philosophy and religion professor from James Madison University is writing about food and related behavior. However, upon further exploration, the connection between the two concepts—food behaviors (myths and beliefs) and religion—becomes apparent. Keep Reading

Calorie Labeling: Coming to a Restaurant, Grocery Store, and Theater Near You

The long-awaited final regulations for calorie labeling were released on Dec. 1, 2014. These regulations come 4+ years after the law requiring them passed as part of the Affordable Care Act. And, the regulatory verdict from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is clear: Calories will be everywhere. Nearly all chain food establishments that sell “restaurant-type food” and have 20 or more sites nationally will have to post calories on menus. Despite early signals that some food establishments might be exempt, the final regulations state that fast-food restaurants, full-service restaurants, cafeterias, grocery stores, movie theaters, bakeries, convenience stores, vending machine operators, and yes, bowling alleys must comply. Schools are pretty much the only entities that aren’t included. The regulations give establishments until December 2015 to post calories; vending machine operators have until December 2016. Keep Reading

Macronutrient Intake Recommendations: What Does the Evidence Indicate?

ScientificJournalWith the increased interest in how we address obesity and the associated metabolic risk factors, there has been more focus on greater understanding of how macronutrient intake (source and amount) affects our health. A big splash occurred with the re-issuing of Atkins’ Diet over a decade ago. Since then, and with the ever-increasing impact of social media, societal interest in how food impacts health has exponentially escalated.

Currently, there are discussions surrounding:

  1. Whether calories are as important to health outcomes as we once thought
  2. The “toxicity” of certain ingredients and nutrients
  3. How the source and type of macronutrient influences our bodies and environment
  4. How genetic alterations of our plant-derived food impacts our health

Keep Reading

Industry-wide Impact of FTC’s POM Wonderful Ruling

Last month, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a final ruling in a case involving POM Wonderful LLC, determining that certain ads for its juice products made misleading claims about the drink’s health benefits. This case has implications beyond the immediate effects on the company involved. The decision will affect a wide swath of the food and beverage industries by further tightening the criteria that will be required to sustain claims that a given product treats a disease. The FTC said that the claims in the instant case must be backed by two randomized, controlled clinical trials. These are essentially the same criteria employed by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in assessing new drugs. Keep Reading