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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

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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

Large Soda Ban: Public vs. Personal Policy

Large SodaThere has been much discussion on the proposal to ban large (>16 oz.) serving sizes of non-diet soft drinks in New York City. I am glad it has people talking about the problem of obesity, but I am not sure this policy is the best approach on balance. My colleagues and I examined the available studies published as of 2010 that might indicate whether such a policy would have the desired effect (Mattes et al., 2010).We found five randomized, controlled studies that had attempted to determine whether asking people to reduce their intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs, of all types, including soft drinks) would result in weight loss. In people who are already overweight, it appears that there is a very small mean effect in weight reduction, although it is not statistically significant when looking at the range of effects in the whole sample. Keep Reading

Soy and Cognitive Function: Latest Results

The effect of soyfoods on cognition has been a topic of some controversy. Because soybeans contain isoflavones, which are phytoestrogens, some researchers have theorized that they could prevent cognitive decline that occurs with aging as estrogen is believed to do. However, the results from a Hawaiian population study published in the year 2000 linked soy consumption with greater risk of cognitive impairment (White et al., 2000). Keep Reading

Exposing the Truth Behind the ‘Slime’

There has been a lot of media attention given to a product that is unfamiliar to most consumers, even though they have been eating it for the last 20 years. Lean finely textured beef, known by the derogatory term “pink slime,” has come to mean many things to many people. And as is often the case with something unfamiliar, people sometimes jump to conclusions that are based on incomplete facts.

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