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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

We Owe Our Caffeine Addiction To Goats That Got High



As you sip your cup of morning joe or cappuccino, don't forget to thank goats. Why? Because, legend has it, it's thanks to them that we even have coffee. As the story goes, an Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi was minding his own business one day when he found his charges getting super-frisky. They were nibbling on the berries and leaves of a mysterious plant, leading them to dance on their hind legs. Kaldi decided to take a bite of the berries and experienced a rush of energy. He took the berries to a holy man who tossed them on a fire, emitting the heavenly scent of coffee we know and love today. Someone wise took the roasted beans from the embers of the fire and used them to brew a cup of what we guzzle today! The word "coffee" itself may derive from the Ethiopian region of Kaffa, though Yemenites claim their country as the place of origin. Look at this gorgeous cup of cappuccino! Thanks, goats. 



Whether or not goats actually led humans to discover coffee, Ethiopia was one place with a strong coffee history. The first written reference to coffee came in the tenth century, courtesy of the great Persian doctor named Rhazes, author of one thousand books, though the drink was probably made for centuries beforehand. Rhazes referred to bunn, as it was referred to in Ethiopia, of which he quipped, “It is a drink that is good for those with hot nature, but it decrease[s] the libido." Unfortunately, this probably wasn't the exact same kind of brew that we drink today, which didn't appear for another few centuries.

Feature image via World on a Fork Written by Carly Silver, HistoryBuff http://stst.io/xnikc7mvy6YhGvBbD

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Global shift in farmed fish feed may impact nutritional benefits ascribed to seafood

The fish-farming industry is increasing its use of plant-based ingredients in its feed and moving away from traditional feed made from fish, which could impact some of the health benefits of eating certain types of seafood, suggests a new analysis from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.


The findings are published March 11 in the journal Environment International.

Half of the seafood consumed by Americans is farmed. Fish farming, also known as aquaculture, is the fastest-growing food animal sector, outpacing the beef and poultry industries. While wild fish find their own food -- which includes smaller fish for carnivorous species -- intensively farmed fish are fed a manufactured aquaculture feed. Until recently, this manufactured feed was typically composed of high levels of fishmeal and fish oil derived from wild fish -- but it has become unsustainable to catch more wild fish to feed growing numbers of farmed fish, so the industry has shifted the makeup of the feed. For example, twice as much soybean meal was used in commercial aquaculture feed in 2008 as compared to fishmeal, and the use of crop-based ingredients is projected to increase 124 percent between 2008 and 2020.



"Farmed fish get their health-promoting omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, from their feed, and specifically from fish oil," says study leader Jillian Fry, PhD, director of CLF's Public Health and Sustainable Aquaculture Project and a faculty member at the Bloomberg School. "Our review found that increasing plant-based ingredients can change the fatty acid content in farmed fish, which can affect human nutrition."

The new study details the industry shift to crop-based feed ingredients, such as soy, corn, and wheat, to replace wild fish as a key ingredient in manufactured feed. The researchers -- in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment and McGill University -- reviewed aquaculture and public health literature, and conducted a new analysis to estimate the environmental footprint for the top five crops used in commercial aquaculture feed.

The shift has been hailed by some as a positive change in light of the increasingly depleted oceans and the rapidly expanding aquaculture industry. But the shift may have some unintended consequences as well.

Using vegetable oils instead of fish oil changes the fatty acid content of fish and nutritional value for human consumption, the researchers say. Considering Americans are encouraged to consume seafood high in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote improved cardiovascular health and neurodevelopment, this has large implications for dietary recommendations and the aquaculture industry. More research is needed, they say, to better understand the impact of this shift in feed on the health benefits of consuming farmed fish.

While fish-based ingredients are seen as acutely limited, so are the resources such as land, water and fertilizer used to produce feed crops. Aquaculture's environmental footprint likely now includes increased nutrient and pesticide runoff from the industrial crop production needed to supply fish food. This runoff is a key driver of water pollution globally, and can negatively impact public health. Depending on where and how feed crops are produced, plant-based fish feed could be indirectly linked to negative health outcomes for agricultural workers and nearby communities due to exposure to air, water or soil contaminated by nutrients and/or pesticides.

Fry says that these new findings may raise more questions than they answer.

"The nutritional content of farmed fish should be monitored," Fry says. "The aquaculture industry should assess the environmental footprint and public health impacts of their crop-based feed ingredients and seek those produced using sustainable methods."

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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Time to rethink your vegetable oil?

Risk of heart disease and diabetes may be lowered by a diet higher in a lipid found in grapeseed and other oils, but not in olive oil, a new study suggests.


Researchers at The Ohio State University found that men and women with higher linoleic acid levels tended to have less heart-threatening fat nestled between their vital organs, more lean body mass and less inflammation.

And higher linoleic acid levels also meant lower likelihood of insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.

This finding could have obvious implications in preventing heart disease and diabetes, but also could be important for older adults because higher lean body mass can contribute to a longer life with more independence, said Ohio State's Martha Belury, a professor of human nutrition who led the research.

But there's a catch. Low-cost cooking oils rich in linoleic acid have been disappearing from grocery shelves, fueled by industry's push for plants that have been modified to produce oils higher in oleic acid.

"Vegetable oils have changed. They're no longer high in linoleic acid," said Belury, an expert in dietary fats and part of Ohio State's Food Innovation Center.

The research appears online in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.

The research team also looked at the health effects of oleic acid, found in olive oil and some other vegetable oils, as well as long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish including salmon and tuna.

Though inflammation decreased as blood levels of those fatty acids rose, higher levels of oleic acid or long-chain omega-3s did not appear to have any relationship to body composition or signs of decreased diabetes risk despite longstanding recommendations that people eat more of these "healthy" fats.

"It really kind of popped out and surprised us," Belury said.

Previous research found that taking linoleic acid supplements increased lean body mass and lowered fat in the midsection. As little as a teaspoon and a half was all it took, Belury said. The current study is the first study to examine linoleic acid alongside body composition and other health markers in people who hadn't been given supplements or prescriptive diets, she said.

Because of previous research showing cardiovascular benefits of linoleic acid, the American Heart Association in 2009 recommended people take in at least 5 to 10 percent of their energy in the form of omega-6 fatty acids, which includes linoleic acid.

But U.S. consumption of linoleic acid is declining because of genetic modification of plants for food manufacturers seeking oils higher in oleic acid, Belury said.


There's been a pronounced shift in the last five years, she said, and it is linked to the push against trans fats. When linoleic acid is made solid (hydrogenated) for processed foods, it is more likely to convert to trans fat than its oleic cousin.

So oils, notably safflower, sunflower and soybean, now routinely contain less linoleic acid -- it often makes up less than 20 percent of the fatty acids in commonly purchased oils, based on food labels and confirmed by testing in her lab, Belury said.

Grapeseed oil for now remains an excellent source of linoleic acid, which constitutes about 80 percent of its fatty acids, she said. Corn oil also remains a decent source, she said.

The team used data from two previous studies that focused on stress and included 139 people. In those studies, researchers assessed body composition using DXA scanning, an advanced way of measuring fat and muscle mass.

They tested blood drawn after the men and women fasted for 12 hours, calculating the amount of linoleic acid (and other fatty acids) in red blood cells. All of the linoleic acid in our bodies comes from food sources.

They also evaluated the blood for insulin resistance and two markers of inflammation that are connected with disease.

Then they plotted results for each health category against the group's results for each of the three fat categories: linoleic acid, oleic acid and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

Belury said the study doesn't explain the apparent interplay between linoleic acid and measures of risk for heart disease and diabetes. It shows an association between those things, but not a cause and effect. And its power is limited because it relied on looking back on two previous research efforts and those involved middle-aged men and women who were slightly healthier on average than the general population.

The study participants lived in and around Columbus, Ohio. It's possible that the results would have been different in a population with diets that tend to be higher in omega-3 rich fatty fish, Belury said.

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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Ohio State University. The original item was written by Misti Crane. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Fuel or food? Study sees increasing competition for land, water resources

As strategies for energy security, investment opportunities and energy policies prompt ever-growing production and consumption of biofuels like bioethanol and biodiesel, land and water that could otherwise be used for food production increasingly are used to produce crops for fuel.




About 4 percent of the world's agricultural land and 3 to 4 percent of its fresh water are now used for growing biofuels, according to a new study published March 3, 2016 in the Nature journal Scientific Reports. About one-third of the malnourished people in the world, the findings suggest, could be fed by using these resources for food production.

With the world's population at about 7.4 billion people, and projected to grow to about 9 billion by the middle of the century, the need for food and fuel could increasingly be at odds.


"We are investigating and evaluating the affects of biofuels on food security -- the food-energy nexus -- and its link with the global appropriation of land and water," said Paolo D'Odorico, an environmental sciences professor at the University of Virginia who co-wrote the paper with colleagues in Italy. "The land and water resources claimed by biofuel production have been poorly quantified, and we are trying to gain better understanding to help inform public policy."

D'Odorico said that if biofuel production for transportation were to be increased to 10 percent of the total fuel used by the transportation sector -- as is projected to occur based on recent policy and business patterns that encourage renewable energy production -- the planet could meet the food needs of only about 6.7 billion people.

"We are looking at a food deficit for about 700 million people with respect to our current world population," D'Odorico said. "It will only get worse as the population grows."

The research team based its analysis on biofuel consumption rates inferred from data by the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization and other sources. They estimated the water and land footprints of one unit of biofuel energy and reconstructed global trade patterns for bioenergy crops. They determined that the approximately 4 percent of agricultural land and water used for producing biofuels would be sufficient to feed about 280 million more people if used for food crops.



"These results clearly show the extent to which biofuels are competing with food for the limited land and water resources of the planet, and are becoming an additional obstacle to bringing food production in line with the increasing needs of the human population," D'Odorico said.



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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Virginia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Almond joy: Eating just a handful a day boosts diet health, study shows

Just add a handful of almonds: a University of Florida study suggests that improving one's diet can be as simple as that.



Researchers studied the effect that the addition of almonds can have on a person's diet quality, based on data collected from 28 parent-child pairs living in North Central Florida.

The parents were instructed to eat 1.5 ounces of whole almonds each day during the three-week intervention portion of the research period, and the children were encouraged to eat half an ounce of whole almonds or an equivalent amount of almond butter each day. Although only one parent and one child's habits were analyzed in the study, which was published in the December issue of the Journal of Nutrition Research, the researchers encouraged the whole family to participate and provided enough almonds and almond butter for everyone in the family to eat.

At the beginning of the 14-week research period the research subjects' average Healthy Eating Index scores were 53.7 ± 1.8 for the parents and 53.7 ± 2.6 for the children. The Healthy Eating Index is a measure of diet quality that assesses conformance to the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. A score below 51 is reflective of a poor diet, a score between 51 and 80 reflects a need for improvement and a score greater than 80 indicates a good diet.


After the almond intervention, the average Healthy Eating Index score for parents and children increased, with parents' average increasing to 61.4 ± 1.4 and children's average increasing to 61.4 ± 2.2. They increased their Healthy Eating Index component scores for total protein foods and decreased the intake of empty calories.

The researchers believe the parents and children were replacing salty and processed snacks with almonds, said Alyssa Burns, a doctoral student in the UF/IFAS food science and human nutrition department who conducted the study.

Over the past 20 years, per-capita consumption of nuts and seeds has decreased in children 3 to 6 years old, while the consumption of savory snacks--like chips and pretzels--increased. Researchers were interested in studying the addition of almonds into 3- to 6-year-old children's diets, because encouraging healthy eating habits during early childhood can have numerous lifelong benefits.

"The habits you have when you are younger are carried into adulthood, so if a parent is able to incorporate almonds or different healthy snacks into a child's diet, it's more likely that the child will choose those snacks later on in life," Burns said.

They were also interested in learning how easy or difficult it is to incorporate almonds into the diets of preschool-aged children--an age when food preferences are developed.

"Some of the challenges that we saw were that the kids were getting bored with the almonds, or they didn't like the taste of the almonds or the almond butter," Burns said.

To counter that, she said they came up with creative ways for the parents to incorporate the almonds into their children's diets--for instance, adding them to familiar foods like oatmeal, smoothies or sandwiches.

The study's results suggest whole food approaches, like adding almonds to one's diet, may be an achievable way to improve overall public health.


"Adding a variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts to your diet can improve your overall diet quality," Burns said.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

All Supermarkets In France Are Now Required to Give Unsold Food to the Needy


The French government enacted a law on Wednesday making it mandatory for supermarkets in France to donate unwanted food to food banks or charities.
The petition was launched by local councilman Arash Derambarsh and was unanimously passed by the country’s senate, reports the Independent. The effort was reportedly campaigned by anti-poverty groups who were opposed to food waste. These groups are now hoping the rest of the EU follows suit with a similar law.


Fines of up to 75,000 euros ($83,700) or two years in prison will be incurred for those who violate the new law which applies to any supermarket that covers a minimum of 400 square meters of floor area.
It has been a practice of some local supermarkets to pour bleach over the discarded food or to lock them in warehouses to prevent foraging.
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Jacques Bailet, head of Banques Alimentaires, a network of French food banks, told the The Guardian that “it would greatly increase an already emerging trend for supermarkets to donate to food banks.”
“In terms of nutritional balance, we currently have a deficit of meat and a lack of fruit and vegetables. This will hopefully allow us to push for those products,” said Bailet.



The legislation is widely seen as simplifying a complicated process of donating directly to charity.
Each year over 7.8 million tons of food are wasted in France while 1.4 billion tons are wasted worldwide.

Written by Editorial Staff, NextShark

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Fatty acids from genetically modified oilseed crops could replace fish oil

Researchers studied the effect in mice of consuming feed enriched with oil from glasshouse-grown genetically engineered Camelina sativa, developed at the agricultural science centre Rothamsted Research.

The goal of the research was to discover whether mammals (using mice as a model) can absorb and accumulate EPA from this novel source of omega-3s.

The team examined levels of EPA in various organs in the body such as the liver, as well as its effect on the expression of genes key for regulating the way the body processes fats. The results show that the benefits were similar to those derived from fish oils.

Lead researcher Prof Anne-Marie Minihane, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, said: "The long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid EPA is beneficial for cardiovascular and cognitive health, as well as for foetal development in pregnancy.

"The recommended minimum dietary intake can be achieved by eating one to two portions of oily fish per week.

"But for everyone in the world to achieve their minimum dietary intake, you would need around 1.3 million metric tonnes of EPA per year. Fish currently provide around 40 per cent of the required amount -- so there is a large deficit between supply and demand.

"There is a great need to identify alternative and sustainable sources of these beneficial fatty acids.

"We wanted to test whether oil from genetically modified plants could be used as a substitute. This first study indicates that mammals can efficiently accumulate the key health-beneficial omega-3 fatty acid EPA."

The research team studied mice which had been fed with EPA oil from genetically engineered Camelina sativa, commonly known as false flax, but actually a member of the Brassicaceae family. Crops were grown in glasshouses at the primarily publically-funded Rothamsted Research.

The researchers looked to see whether consuming oil from the engineered plants was as beneficial as EPA rich -- fish oil. They did this by testing tissue concentrations of fatty acids in liver, muscle and brain tissue, along with the expression of genes involved in regulating EPA status and its physiological benefits.

Prof Minihane said: "The mice were fed with a control diet similar to a Westernised human diet, along with supplements of EPA from genetically engineered Camelina sativa or fish oil, for ten weeks -- enough time for any beneficial results to be seen.

"We found that the genetically engineered oil is a bioavailable source of EPA, with comparable benefits for the liver to eating oily fish."