Cooking Food Changes Makeup of Gut Bacteria

MONDAY, Oct. 7, 2019 — Cooking food has a fundamental impact on what bacteria live in your gut, a new study finds.

“Our lab and others have studied how different kinds of diet — such as vegetarian versus meat-based diets — impact the microbiome [gut bacteria],” said senior study author Peter Turnbaugh, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of California, San Francisco.

“We were surprised to discover that no one had studied the fundamental question of how cooking itself alters the composition of the microbial ecosystems in our guts,” he added in a university news release.

In mice, the researchers found that raw or cooked meat had no discernible effect on their gut bacteria. Raw and cooked sweet potatoes, however, had a significant effect on the animals’ microbiomes.

The researchers confirmed this finding by feeding the mice other raw and cooked vegetables.

The study authors attribute the differences they found to the small intestine’s ability to take in more cooked food, depriving bacteria further down in the gut.

Raw vegetables, however, have compounds that seem to damage certain microbes, the investigators found.

“We were surprised to see that the differences were not only due to changing carbohydrate metabolism but also may be driven by the chemicals found in plants,” Turnbaugh said. “To me, this really highlights the importance of considering the other components of our diet and how they impact gut bacteria.”

The researchers also found that raw diets caused mice to lose weight, but when they transplanted the microbes of these mice into other mice, those animals gained weight — a paradox that still needs explaining.

In a separate step, the researchers fed raw and cooked meals to a group of human volunteers. In humans, these diets each changed the participants’ microbiomes, the researchers found.

“It was exciting to see that the impact of cooking we see in rodents is also relevant to humans, although interestingly, the specifics of how the microbiome was affected differed between the two species,” Turnbaugh said. “We’re very interested in doing larger and longer intervention and observational studies in humans to understand the impact of longer-term dietary changes.”

Understanding how diet affects the microbiome has implications for how gut microbes influence weight gain and other areas of health, Turnbaugh said.

The study also raises questions about how human microbes have evolved, he said, and if this could have implications for overall health.

The report was published Sept. 30 in the journal Nature Microbiology.

More information

For more on the microbiome, head to the Harvard School of Public Health.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: October 2019 – Daily MedNews

PFAS Chemicals in Food: Expert QA

Aug. 8, 2019 — Millions of people have eaten out of them: Molded fiber bowls, the popular food containers from restaurants like Chipotle and Sweetgreen.

They are supposed to be compostable and environmentally friendly, but some public health experts say the chemicals that allow these bowls to hold hot, wet, and greasy foods without falling apart are toxic to both the environment and you.

The chemicals are called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, more commonly referred to as PFAS.

The New Food Economy, a nonprofit newsroom that does investigative reporting on “forces shaping how and what we eat,” went to eight restaurants at 14 locations in New York City — including Chipotle, Sweetgreen, and Dig — and tested fiber bowls used at each restaurant. All of the samples tested had high levels of fluorine, a chemical that generally indicates the bowls were treated with PFAS compounds.

In a statement to WebMD, Chipotle said: “As evidenced in Chipotle’s Sustainability Report, we are committed to using safe and sustainable food packaging and only partner with suppliers who make fluorochemical sciences and food safety a top priority. These suppliers operate under strict guidelines set forth by the FDA, and have all provided Chipotle with certification that all raw material and finished pulp products fully meet regulatory requirements.”

We spoke with Alexis Temkin, PhD., a toxicologist at the Environmental Working Group; Arlene Blum, PhD, founder and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute and a research associate in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley; and Green Science senior scientist Tom Bruton, PhD, and asked them to weigh in on the discussion.

Experts Weigh In

WebMD: What are PFAS chemicals?

Temkin: Per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, are a family of thousands of chemicals used to make water-, grease- and stain-repellent coatings for a vast array of consumer goods and industrial applications. These chemicals are notoriously persistent in the environment and the human body, and some have been linked to serious health hazards. PFAS mixtures, which are used in a variety of consumer products, can be found in the body of nearly every American and in the developing fetus.

WebMD: Why should we be worried about them?

Temkin: Peer-reviewed studies have linked exposure to these chemicals with weakened immune systems and lower vaccine effectiveness; low birth weights; endocrine disruption; thyroid disorders; increased cholesterol; hypersensitivity and greater risk of autoimmune diseases; and an increased risk of testicular, kidney, liver, and pancreatic cancers.

WebMD: How widespread are they, and where are they found?

Temkin: The CDC has found these chemicals in the blood of virtually all Americans. Last year, an American Red Cross study found that the blood of the average American has 4,300 parts per trillion, or ppt, of PFOS and 1,100 ppt of PFOA. (The two chemicals are types of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.)

These chemicals are found in upholstery treatments, carpet treatments, waterproof clothing, furniture, cosmetics, dental floss, nonstick cookware, food wrappers, sludge, food, and water.

WebMD: The New Food Economy did some testing and found PFAS chemicals in “green” molded fiber takeout bowls. Are the levels of chemicals they found cause for concern?

Blum: We don’t know the answer, but we believe that since PFAS chemicals will never break down in the environment and the ones that have been studied are toxic, we should only use them when they’re necessary, and they’re not necessary for food takeout containers.

Temkin: The results of this study help us understand where and how PFAS chemicals are used. When these bowls are composted, PFAS can contaminate the soil and potentially end up in the foods it is used on, or contaminate water, creating future exposures. There is a risk that PFAS can transfer to food in the bowls, which may be another source of PFAS exposure in the American diet.

WebMD: How dangerous are these chemicals?

Temkin: In June 2019, Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, suggested that the safety threshold for PFOA in drinking water should be as low as 0.1 parts per trillion, which is 700 times lower than the safety level set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

And a 2013 study by Philippe Grandjean, MD, of the Harvard School of Public Health, and Esben Budtz-Jórgensen, PhD, of the University of Copenhagen, made a recommendation for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water of 0.3 ppt. Grandjean published a case study on how regulatory guidelines and legal limits for the most-studied PFAS chemicals have decreased substantially since they first were proposed a decade ago.

Grandjean found the limits remain too high to protect health and warned against allowing widespread use of the new generation of PFAS chemicals before they are thoroughly studied for toxicity, environmental persistence, and their public health impacts. PFOA and PFOS are now banned in the U.S., but the EPA and FDA have allowed many PFAS replacement chemicals without adequate study.

WebMD: This most recent report focuses on Chipotle and a few other chains, but these products are used by many other restaurants and retailers, right?

Temkin: In 2017, scientists from nonprofit research organizations including the Environmental Working Group, federal and state regulatory agencies, and universities collaborated to test samples of sandwich and pastry wrappers, french fry bags, pizza boxes, and other food packaging from 27 fast-food chains and several local restaurants in five regions of the U.S. They found that of the 327 samples used to serve food, 40% tested positive for fluorine.

Though the presence of fluorine does not automatically indicate the presence of PFAS chemicals, an EPA expert who did more tests of the samples found that the vast majority of materials he tested contained known PFAS.

The samples that tested positive were taken from Arby’s, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Chipotle, Church’s Chicken, Dairy Queen, Dunkin’, Jack in the Box, Jimmy John’s, KFC, Krispy Kreme, McDonald’s, Panera, Pizza Hut, Quiznos, Starbucks, Steak ’n Shake, Subway, Taco Bell, Taco Time, Wendy’s, and local restaurants. There is a table here.

WebMD: For at-home use, what is the safest type of food packaging to use — glass, stainless steel, etc.?

Temkin: The Environmental Working Group recommends that consumers use stainless steel or cast iron cookware at home.

Bruton: Here are a number of things consumers can do to reduce their exposure to PFAS in products:

  • Choose textiles and carpeting without water- and stain-repellency.
  • Avoid food in contact with greaseproof packaging, such as microwave popcorn and some fast food.
  • Avoid personal care products with “perfluor-“, “polyfluor-“, and “PTFE” on the label.
  • Purchase cast iron, glass, or ceramic cookware rather than Teflon.
  • Only purchase waterproof gear when you really need it.
  • Note that “PFOA free” products often use similar chemicals instead.

Blum: Use glass and metal containers when possible.

Temkin: Avoid buying fabrics treated with nonstick chemicals such as Teflon, Scotchgard, Stainmaster, Polartec and Gore-Tex. Use stainless steel and cast iron cookware. Skip optional stain-repellant treatment on new carpets and furniture.

Exposure to PFAS in food wrappers can be reduced by eating fresh foods and preparing meals at home. Avoid the use of paper tableware, and skip the microwave popcorn.

Use the Environmental Working Group’s national tap water database and interactive PFAS map to learn whether these chemicals were detected in your drinking water.

WebMD: Plastic containers also fell out of favor for possible health effects from plastic in the chemicals. Is any type of takeout container safe from chemicals?

Blum: Reusable glass.

WebMD: Is anyone taking action to reduce our exposure to these chemicals — government, food makers, etc.?

Blum: Our institute and other nonprofits work hard to educate decision-makers to reduce the use of these and other harmful chemicals. … The city of San Francisco and the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) have decided, quite logically, that to be labeled compostable, a product cannot contain PFAS. Starting Jan. 1, 2020, all BPI-certified compostable packaging must be free of these harmful chemicals. We hope this will encourage manufacturers to produce food packaging without the added flavor of PFAS.

Temkin: Members of Congress are working on the House and Senate versions of a must-pass defense spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020, which include provisions that would:

  • Require reporting of some PFAS releases through the Toxic Release Inventory.
  • Quickly end military uses of PFAS in firefighting foam and food packaging.
  • Reduce industrial discharges of PFAS into drinking water supplies.
  • Remediate sites with the worst PFAS contamination.


New Food Economy: “The bowls at Chipotle and Sweetgreen are supposed to be compostable. They contain cancer-linked ‘forever chemicals.’”


Alexis Temkin, PhD, toxicologist, Environmental Working Group.

Arlene Blum, PhD, founder and executive director, Green Science Policy Institute.

Tom Bruton, PhD, senior scientist, Green Science Policy Institute.

Environmental Research: “Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in American Red Cross adult blood donors, 2000-2015.”

CDC: “National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals.”

2019 Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances: Second National Conference.

Environmental Health: “Delayed discovery, dissemination, and decisions on intervention in environmental health: a case study on immunotoxicity of perfluorinated alkylate substances.”

Environmental Science and Technology Letters: “Fluorinated Compounds in U.S. Fast Food Packaging.”

Environmental Working Group: “Many Fast Food Wrappers Still Coated in PFCS, Kin to Carcinogenic Teflon Chemical.”

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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WebMD Health

Staring at seagulls can stop them stealing food, research shows

FILE PHOTO: Seagulls fly over the Palace Pier in Brighton, southern England March 7, 2009. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s seaside towns are at war with their seagulls, urging visitors not to feed the birds in an effort to stop them snatching titbits like potato chips from tourists’ hands.

Warning signs deck promenade railings from Scarborough to Broadstairs and beyond but now research from the University of Exeter has suggested an easy way for holidaymakers to deter the gulls – just stare at them.

The research showed that with a human staring at them, herring gulls took 21 seconds longer to approach a bag of chips then when left apparently unobserved.

“Gulls are often seen as aggressive and willing to take food from humans, so it was interesting to find that most wouldn’t even come near during our tests,” said lead author Madeleine Goumas, of the Center for Ecology and Conservation at Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

The researchers tried to test 74 gulls but most flew away or would not approach. Just 27 approached the food and 19 completed the “looking at” and “looking away” tests.

“Of those that did approach, most took longer when they were being watched,” Goumas said. “Some wouldn’t even touch the food at all, although others didn’t seem to notice that a human was staring at them.”

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Stephen Addison

Reuters: Oddly Enough

This Couple Makes Cannabis-Infused Food That’s Also Vegan

Curtis Powell and Rebecca Goss loved to venture out to infusion events (where cannabis is infused in food), but their options as vegans were extremely limited. So they decided to start their own dinner club, which they called Vegan Stoner Club.

The couple partnered with a close friend from Rob the Art Museum in June to start creating THC-infused dinners and pairings. “We want to spread veganism and cannabis in our own unique way,” Powell says.

The feedback so far has been positive. “Everybody loves it,” Powell notes. “And what’s funny is that most people that show up aren’t vegan.”

With these infused dinners, Vegan Stoner Club is hitting a different subculture and changing perceptions about vegan food. Goss and Powell are able to introduce plant-based dishes to people who otherwise may not have given them a try.

Rebecca Goss anf Curtis Powell are the minds behind Vegan Stoner Club.EXPAND

Rebecca Goss anf Curtis Powell are the minds behind Vegan Stoner Club.

Curtis Powell

Each dish created is infused with different dosages of cannabis to spread the effects over a complete dinner. The pair recently participated in Denver’s first Vegan Restaurant Week this past May, serving a soul food-inspired dinner of fried tofu in an infused barbecue sauce, infused mac and cheese and infused baked beans.

Since Powell is originally from Miami, he’s also created Cuban-influenced marijuana dinners with empanadas, a traditional Cuban sandwich and a dos leches cake (leaving the dairy products out of the typical tres leches version). Other pot-permeated eats at recent events have included barbecue pulled pork (a meatless version, of course), fried mac and cheese balls, garlic knots, fettuccine Alfredo with mushrooms, onions and pesto, and tofu scramble with hash browns. The vegan gourmet says one of the most popular items thus far has been Rebecca’s banana pudding, loaded with 10 milligrams of THC per serving.

“We tend to veganize what people are missing,” Powell says of the supper club’s scratch-made comfort food.

Vegan Supper Club has been holding events at least once a month since launching, and dinners are held at private locations. For more information and to sign up for a dinner, visit Vegan Stoner Club and Rob the Art Museum on Instagram. Then prepared to get stoned like a vegan.

Toke of the Town

Can Early Exposure Fix Food Allergies?

By Lauren Paige Kennedy

shelled peanuts

For decades, allergists and pediatricians believed two things about peanut allergy. First: New parents should wait to introduce peanuts to children until they were past infancy to lower the risk of a negative reaction. Second: If a reaction did happen, and an allergy was confirmed through testing, the only safe measure for the 80% of kids who never outgrow this food aversion was strict avoidance of peanuts — for life.

While everyone agrees that a peanut allergy can trigger anaphylaxishives, respiratory distress, vomiting, and, in some cases, even death — guidelines are evolving on the other fronts, says Maria Garcia-Lloret, MD, a professor of pediatric allergy and immunology and co-director of the UCLA food allergy clinic.

“We now believe peanuts, which are not actually nuts but are legumes, should be given to babies as early as 4 months, when solids are first introduced,” she says. “It should not be the very first food a parent gives; I suggest mixing a little bit of peanut butter in some oatmeal. However — and this is critical — babies with eczema and other established food allergies are considered high-risk. For those kids, introduction to peanuts should be carefully monitored under the guidance of a pediatrician.”

In addition, Garcia-Lloret reports how the evidence now strongly suggests “kids and adults with existing peanut allergy can build sustained unresponsiveness through a process of gradual desensitization.” In other words, slow and sustained exposure to peanuts under clinical guidance may reduce the risk for accidental anaphylaxis down the line.

The Results of Early Exposure

The shift in thinking came in 2015, when the results of a clinical trial known as LEAP (Learning Early About Peanut allergy) were published in The New England Journal of Medicine. (The study is supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Immune Tolerance Network.)

It revealed how early exposure to peanuts produced an 81% reduction in peanut allergy among high-risk children, deemed so because they had already tested positive for other food allergies and/or had eczema. More than 600 children ages 4 to 11 months either consumed, or strictly avoided, peanuts until age 5. Of the children who avoided peanuts, 17% had a peanut allergy by age 5, compared to only 3% in the peanut-consuming group.


Prevention vs. Desensitization

LEAP focuses on preventing peanut allergy; oral immunotherapy (OIT) focuses on retraining the immune system response in children and adults with a peanut allergy, which causes a mild to severe reaction in approximately 1% to 2% of the U.S. population.

Garcia-Lloret, who ran a 2016 UCLA clinical peanut allergy trial, is among several researchers in the U.S. now offering OIT desensitization in a clinical setting. She says the ongoing results from her program — which tracks about 60 pediatric patients — and from other programs like, it strongly confirm LEAP’s findings.

And, she says, her patients with peanut allergy have shown how gradual exposure to trace amounts of the peanut protein under clinical guidance — followed by slowly increased doses each day over many months or even years — builds immune tolerance.

Other desensitization approaches also under study include peanut protein exposure through the skin via a peanut patch, as well as placing droplets of the peanut antigen under the tongue.

And recent research shows that healthy infants and toddlers may be able to be introduced to multiple, potentially allergenic proteins (including peanut, soy, cashew, fish, and more) at the same time for several consecutive weeks without negative reactions. Some pediatricians are hopeful that this type of early introduction may help prevent allergy, but more research needs to be done.

Peanut Allergy on the Rise

Anxious parents may welcome the news. According to a FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) study, allergy to peanuts is on the rise among U.S. children, with rates more than tripling between 1997 and 2008. Overall food allergy rates, including but not exclusive to peanuts, rose 50% between 1997 and 2011, the CDC says.

While the most common food allergies among kids ages 2 and younger are to milk and eggs, “80% outgrow these two food aversions,” says Garcia-Lloret. Only 20% of children outgrow peanut allergy, making it a lifelong condition, which also has a disproportionately high rate of inducing severe, even life-threatening reactions, according to multiple studies.

Garcia-Lloret and other prominent researchers are still searching for the reasons why. “It’s likely multi-factorial, involving changes to the microbiome,” she says of the body’s complex immunological ecosystem and what may be triggering it to overreact to seemingly harmless proteins in foods. Overly sanitized modern life may be at root — our love for antibacterial soaps and the overuse of antibiotics mean the body never confronts, and thus never fights off, all sorts of germs, which is what it’s designed to do. It may be itching for a fight — just the wrong one.

Other theories, she adds, include vitamin D deficiency — kids playing inside on their computers rather than outside in the sunshine and dirt — and how we mass-produce our food, with both cross-contamination and pesticides as possible factors. “It may be a combination of all these things working together,” says Garcia-Lloret.


A Desensitization Success Story

No matter the causes, if you’re a parent of a child with a dangerous peanut allergy, every meal must be monitored. Food labels must be scrutinized. And epinephrine auto-injectors are always at the ready at play dates, birthday parties, and restaurants.

Erica Broido from Los Angeles is such a mom. Her daughter Jemma, 12, is taking part in Garcia-Lloret’s pediatric OIT program. Jemma is allergic to peanuts and to many tree nuts. She also has eczema and is considered high-risk.

Broido describes Garcia-Lloret’s approach using desensitization. “It began with Jemma consuming just milligrams of peanut powder in Garcia-Lloret’s clinic,” she says. “We’d stay for a few hours under observation. When no reaction occurred, we’d leave. Then, I’d measure out that same amount of peanut powder — I even purchased a diamond scale to get it exactly right — each night at home for the next few weeks or even months until the doctor said Jemma was ready to up the dose.”

Up-doses always happen in a medical setting, Broido says, with mandatory observation time before release. At times, Jemma did have stomach pain that was treated with an over-the-counter acid reducer (such as Zantac) and a scratchy throat, treated with an antihistamine (such as Benadryl). Gradually, she built up immune-tolerance.

“We’ve been doing this for more than 2 years now. Jemma has graduated beyond the powder. She now consumes two regular peanuts at home each night,” says Broido. And she’s doing so lately, Broido says, without any negative immune response.

The goal is to reach what’s called a maintenance dose, though researchers are still trying to find out exactly what a maintenance dose should be — and for how long and how often it should be ingested to protect immune tolerance, says Garcia-Lloret.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, maintenance level is 3,000 milligrams of peanut powder, or the equivalent of five to 10 peanuts, consumed each day. But a promising oral medication for peanut allergy is being reviewed by the FDA, which sets its maintenance dose at just 300 mg, according to Garcia-Lloret.


For Jemma, getting to two peanuts a day feels monumental. Her big goal is to be able to finally eat “regular” nut-free Halloween candy, Broido says. That’s because most popular chocolate bars are exposed to peanuts when they’re being made, including those without nuts in their regular ingredients, making them off-limits for anyone with a peanut allergy. Through OIT, she may be able to safely eat one this year.

Her mother is greatly relieved by such progress. “Jemma is brave — that’s just how she does life,” Broido says of her daughter. “I was nervous, but that nervousness was outweighed by my trust in the process — plus the prospect of no longer being terrified about keeping a child safe who is at such high risk.”

Facts and Statistics

1/3 higher risk: If you’re allergic to peanuts, you have a 25% to 40% higher chance of also being allergic to tree nuts, including almonds, cashews, and hazelnuts.

1.8 million kids: An estimated 1% to 2% of U.S. children have a mild to severe allergic reaction after eating or being exposed to peanuts.

94% of severe reactions: Peanut allergy is the most common food allergy because most people don’t outgrow it. It also causes a disproportionate rate of life-threating anaphylactic reactions.

AR101: The name of the oral immunotherapeutic medication (a pill) being reviewed by the FDA as a potential treatment for peanut allergy in children ages 4 to 17.

2 times to 4 times more likely: Children with food allergies are at least twice as likely to have related conditions, including asthma and other nonfood allergies such as an allergy to pollen.

Close to half: More than 40% of children with food allergies have had a severe allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis.

Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of WebMD Magazine.



Maria Garcia-Lloret, MD, associate professor of pediatrics, division of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, UCLA Health; co-director, UCLA food allergy clinic.

Erica Broido, Los Angeles.

UCLA Health: “Spotlight on Food Allergies: Pediatrics Allergy and Immunology Care.”

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: “LEAP Study Results.”

American Academy of Pediatrics News: “New guidelines detail use of ‘infant-safe’ peanut to prevent allergy.”

Food Allergy Research & Education: “Peanut Allergy: Learn about peanut allergy, how to read food labels and how to avoid eating peanuts,” “Facts and Statistics,” “Food Allergy Facts and Statistics for the U.S.,” “Update on Immunotherapies for Peanut Allergy,” “Report From AAAAI: Recent Findings in Peanut Immunotherapy,” “Common Allergens.”

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: “Increasing Rates of Allergies and Asthma,” “Patients Taking Lower Maintenance Doses of Peanut Oral Immunotherapy May Still Achieve Desensitization.”

Business Insider: “Why so many Americans are allergic to peanuts.”

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: “A pilot study of omalizumab to facilitate rapid oral desensitization in high-risk peanut allergic patients.”

Drugs: “Sublingual vs Oral Immunotherapy for Food Allergy: Identifying the Right Approach.”

Mayo Clinic: “Anaphylaxis.”

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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WebMD Health

Exclusive Clip: “Friend vs. Food” in ‘How to Train Your Dragons’

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World has landed on disc! To celebrate, our chums at Universal Pictures Home Entertainment are sneaking us a peek at one of the release’s many engaging bonus features. In this clip, Hiccup explains the trials and tribulations of integrating dragons into Berk’s sheep farming society.

Read more about the The Hidden World on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD here, and don’t forget to enter our monthly giveaway contest for a chance to win your own free copy!

Animation Magazine

Will Climate Change Cause Food Sources to Dwindle?

Peter de Menocal, PhD, director, Center for Climate and Life, Columbia University.

Lewis Ziska, PhD, research plant physiologist, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

North Dakota State University: “Too much rain?”

Nate Powell-Palm, farmer, Belgrade, MT.

Michelle Tigchelaar, PhD, climate scientist, Stanford University Center for Ocean Solutions.

Mike Rivington, PhD, James Hutton Institute, Scotland.

Donald Ort, PhD, the Robert Emerson professor of plant biology and crop sciences, University of Illinois.

Jonathan Patz, MD, director, Global Health Institute, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Nature: “Recent patterns of crop yield growth and stagnation.”

The Nature Education Knowledge Project: “Soil carbon storage.”

Rural Sociology: “Soil as Social-Ecological Feedback: Examining the ‘Ethic’ of Soil Stewardship among Corn Belt Farmers.”

Penn State University: “The Future of Food.”

The Conversation: “Climate change will make rice less nutritious.”

Environmental Health Perspectives: “Rising CO2, Climate Change, and Public Health: Exploring the Links to Plant Biology.”

The Conversation: “Together more heat and more carbon dioxide may not alter quantity or nutritional value of crops.”

Nature Communications: “Strategies for feeding the world more sustainably with organic agriculture.”

Nature Communications: “Organic agriculture in the twenty-first century.”

Social Science Society of America: “How Will Climate Change Affect Agriculture?”

Purdue University: “Study: Farmers and scientists divided over climate chane.”

WebMD Health

Better Food Assistance Programs Might Lower Childhood Obesity Rates

THURSDAY, April 25, 2019 — Changes made to improve nutrition in a U.S. government food assistance program seem to have triggered a drop in obesity rates among young, poor children, a new study finds.

In 2009, food packages from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) were made more healthy by adding fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and by reducing the amount of juice, milk and cheese.

The program also reduced fat levels allowed in milk and started to determine infant formula amounts based on infants’ age and needs.

“Our study shows that improving nutrition quality made a measurable impact in lowering obesity risk for children receiving the new food package, compared to those receiving the old,” said study author Pia Chaparro. She’s an assistant professor of nutrition at Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans.

“Our results suggest that changes in children’s diet early in life could have a positive effect on their growth and reduce obesity risk, which could be informative for policymakers considering further improvements to the WIC program,” Chaparro added in a Tulane news release.

In the study, Chaparro and colleagues analyzed data from more than 180,000 children served by the WIC program in Los Angeles County and found that the nutrition improvements reduced obesity risk among 4-year-olds.

Children are eligible to remain in the program until age 5.

Specifically, the risk of obesity among children who received the new food package from birth to age 4 was 12% lower for boys and 10% lower for girls, compared with children who received the old food package from birth until age 4.

The biggest differences between the two groups began to appear at 6 months of age, suggesting that a more nutritious diet was associated with healthier growth early in life, according to the researchers.

“The beneficial effect of being exposed to the new food package, compared to the old one, was much stronger during the 6-months-to-1-year age interval, and this difference between the two groups during this age interval was large enough to set children in the new food package group on a healthier growth trajectory through age 4,” said Chaparro.

Among children who started receiving the new package at age 2, there was an 11% lower risk of obesity at age 4 among boys, but no reduced risk among girls. The reasons for this difference are unclear.

The study was published April 23 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on childhood obesity.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: April 2019 – Daily MedNews

Could Common Food Preservative Make People Fat?

By Amy Norton


         HealthDay Reporter        

WEDNESDAY, April 24, 2019 (HealthDay News) — If you’re watching your weight, you probably know to avoid sugary and fatty foods. But what about preservatives?

Eating a preservative widely used in breads, baked goods and cheese may trigger metabolic responses that are linked to obesity and diabetes, an early study suggests.

The additive, called propionate, is actually a naturally occurring fatty acid produced in the gut. When it’s used as an additive in processed foods, it helps prevent mold.

But in the new study, researchers found that feeding mice low doses of propionate gradually caused weight gain and resistance to the hormone insulin — which, in humans, is a precursor to type 2 diabetes.

And when the researchers gave healthy adults a single propionate dose, it spurred a release of blood sugar-raising hormones — and a subsequent surge in insulin.

None of that proves propionate-containing foods raise the odds of weight gain and diabetes, said senior researcher Dr. Gokhan Hotamisligil, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

“The point is not to say this additive is ‘bad,'” he stressed.

Instead, Hotamisligil said, his team is interested in understanding the effects — good or bad — of the various “molecules” humans consume in their diets.

“There’s a scarcity of scientific evidence on a lot of the things we put in our bodies through food,” he said. “Propionate is just one example.”

Still, Hotamisligil said, the findings do raise an important question: “Could long-time consumption of propionate in humans be a contributing factor to obesity and diabetes?”

When it comes to processed foods, the concern is usually directed toward ingredients like added sugar, sodium and trans fats. But there’s also a host of additives that, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, are “generally recognized as safe.”

Despite that “GRAS” status, though, there is typically little known about how those food additives might affect metabolism, according to Hotamisligil.

Dr. Emily Gallagher is an assistant professor of endocrinology at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine in New York City.

She agreed it’s important to dig into the potential metabolic effects of food additives.


“People may look at food labels and think they are making healthy choices,” said Gallagher, who had no part in the study. “But without our knowledge, very small amounts of certain additives in food may be causing detrimental metabolic effects.”

That said, it’s too soon to point the finger at propionate, according to Gallagher.

She called these early findings “thought-provoking,” but said longer-term studies are needed to better understand any health effects from the additive.

For the animal portion of the study, the researchers gave mice propionate in their water. The immediate effects included an increase in three hormones that spur the liver to produce glucose (sugar). Over time, chronic exposure to the additive caused the mice to gain weight and become resistant to the hormone insulin, which helps lower blood sugar levels.

The human portion of the study included 14 healthy people given a dose of either propionate or a placebo with a meal. Compared with the placebo meal, the additive caused the same hormonal response seen in mice, plus a surge in insulin in the blood.

Whether those effects over time could harm people’s health is unknown.

Many factors, including overall diet and exercise, affect the risks of obesity and diabetes, Gallagher pointed out.

For now, she said, the findings support the general advice that we should be limiting processed foods, in favor of healthier, whole foods.

Hotamisligil agreed. “I’m not saying, if you don’t eat propionate, you’ll live forever,” he said. “But these are the types of foods we should limit anyway.”

The findings were published online April 24 in Science Translational Medicine.

WebMD News from HealthDay


SOURCES: Gokhan Hotamisligil, M.D., Ph.D., professor, genetics and metabolism, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston; Emily Gallagher, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, endocrinology, diabetes and bone diseases, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City; April 24, 2019,Science Translational Medicine, online

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Food Allergies Can Strike at Any Age

THURSDAY, April 18, 2019 — You might be surprised to learn that food allergies can start in adulthood and involve a food you’ve eaten without a problem for your entire life.

For adults as well as kids, the top — but not the only — food culprits are eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish, wheat and soy, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Just as with childhood food allergies, you’ll need to do your best to avoid these foods and be prepared in case you inadvertently come into contact with one of them.

Signs of a Severe Allergic Reaction

  • Hives or pale/bluish skin tone.
  • Cramps and/or vomiting.
  • Trouble swallowing or swelling of the tongue.
  • Weak pulse.
  • Feeling dizzy or faint.
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing or coughing.
  • Inability to breathe, and drop in blood pressure.

The most serious reaction is called anaphylaxis, an extreme inability to breathe that can lead to shock. It is a life-threatening emergency. Keep in mind that allergic reactions can be unpredictable. Most happen within a few hours of contact, but some are instantaneous. It could take only a small amount of the allergen to cause swelling, hives or anaphylaxis. Also, your body could experience more than one type of reaction — your skin, gastrointestinal tract, heart and/or breathing could be affected.

So it’s important to call your doctor and ask about testing after any out-of-the-ordinary reaction to a particular food. If possible, write down what you ate, how soon afterward symptoms started and how long they lasted.

Allergy testing usually involves a combination of skin pricks and blood tests. Sometimes there may be a workaround. For instance, if a raw fruit or vegetable causes a reaction, you may be able to eat the food cooked because, for some people, heat neutralizes the allergen.

More information

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology has more on food allergies and how to manage them.

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Posted: April 2019 – Daily MedNews

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