Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Sep 4 2015

Weekend reading (and cooking): Eating Well on $4 a Day

Leanne Brown.  Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 / Day.  Workman, 2015.

Leanne Brown is a graduate of our food studies program at New York University who, while in graduate school, became concerned about the plight of SNAP (food stamp) recipients who must feed their families on an average of $4 per day.

She wrote this book for them, first as a class project, then as an online gift, free for the taking.

It was downloaded 700,000 times.

Then she went to a Kickstarter campaign to self-publish the book.  At some point Workman picked it up.

It’s won an award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals and a place for Leanne in Forbes 30 under 30 for 2015.

The book has truly delicious recipes.  It starts with tips useful for anyone on a food budget.

I’m proud of what she’s accomplished.  The book is beautifully photographed, the recipes are terrific, and every time a copy is sold, Workman will donate another one to someone who needs it.

Sep 3 2015

Five more industry-funded studies with predictable results. Score since March: 52:1

Energy flux: staying in energy balance at a high level is necessary to prevent weight gain for most people.  Gregory A Hand, Robin P Shook, James O Hill, Peter R Giacobbi, and Steven N Blair.   Expert Rev. Endocrinol. Metab.  Early online, 1–7 (2015)

  • Conclusion: Maintaining energy balance at a higher caloric intake and expenditure should be a more successful long-term strategy for weight maintenance than reduced consumption or extreme caloric restriction at a low level of energy expenditure (a low energy flux) and improve intervention effectiveness for sustainable methods for body weight stability. [Implication: eat more to lose weight?]
  • Funding: GA Hand received non-restricted research funding and travel grant from The Coca Cola Company and a travel grant from International Life Sciences Institute. RP Shook received a travel grant from the Coca Cola Company. JO Hill received research support from the Coca Cola Company and the American Beverage Association. JO Hill is on the advisory board for McDonalds, General Mills, Curves, Consumer Goods Association, Calorie Control Council, International Food Information Council and McCormick Science Institute. JO Hill is a consultant for Walt Disney, has equity in Gelesis and Active Planet and is on the Board of Directors for International Life Sciences Institute and Livewell Colarado. SN Blair is the principal investigator on projects supported by unrestricted research grants from The Coca Cola Company to the University of South Carolina.
  • Comment: Some of these investigators were among those highlighted in the New York Times article revealing Coca-Cola’s funding of research demonstrating that physical activity is more important than diet in weight maintenance.

Reducing obesity will require involvement of all sectors of society. James O. Hill, John C. Peters and Steven N. Blair. Obesity Volume 23, Issue 2, February 2015, Page: 255.

  • Conclusion: If the physical inactivity industry could commit to increasing physical activity by 78 calories a day per person, we would begin seeing some real success…we need innovative thinking, recognition that both food and physical activity are important, and open minds about how to engage all of society in making changes.
  • Disclosure: Dr. Hill reports personal fees from Coca-Cola, personal fees from McDonald’s, grants from American Beverage Association, personal fees from Walt Disney Company, personal fees from General Mills, personal fees from Calorie Control Council, other from International Life Sciences Institute, and other from Retrofit outside the submitted work. In addition, Dr. Hill has a patent Energy Gap issued. Dr. Blair reports grants from Technogym and grants from Coca-Cola. Dr. Peters has no competing interests to disclose.
  • Comment: same investigators as in previous example.

Instant Oatmeal Increases Satiety and Reduces Energy Intake Compared to a Ready-to-Eat Oat-Based Breakfast Cereal: A Randomized Crossover Trial. Candida J. Rebello MS, RD, William D. Johnson PhD, Corby K. Martin PhD, Hongmei Han MS, Yi-Fang Chu PhD, Nicolas Bordenave PhD, B. Jan Willem van Klinken MD, PhD, Marianne O’Shea PhD & Frank L. Greenway MD.  Journal of the American College of Nutrition Published online: 14 Aug 2015.  DOI:10.1080/07315724.2015.1032442

  • Conclusion: Oatmeal suppresses appetite, increases satiety, and reduces energy intake compared to the RTEC [ready-to-eat cereal].
  • Funding: The trial was funded by Quaker Oats Center of Excellence and PepsiCo R&D Nutrition….

Impact of equol-producing capacity and soy-isoflavone profiles of supplements on bone calcium retention in postmenopausal women: a randomized crossover trial.  Jessica W Pawlowski, Berdine R Martin, George P McCabe, Linda McCabe, George S Jackson, Munro Peacock, Stephen Barnes, and Connie M Weaver. Am J Clin Nutr September 2015 vol. 102 no. 3 695-703.

  • Conclusion: Soy isoflavones, although not as potent as risedronate [a drug used to treat osteoporosis], are effective bone-preserving agents in postmenopausal women regardless of their equol-producing status, and mixed isoflavones in their natural ratios are more effective than enriched genistein.  [Equol is an isoflavone produced by intestinal bacteria]
  • Conflicts: CMW is on the scientific advisory board of Pharmavite [the maker of SoyJoy]. SB has a US patent on the use of conjugated isoflavones and the prevention of osteoporosis.

Agave Inulin Supplementation Affects the Fecal Microbiota of Healthy Adults Participating in a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover TrialHannah D Holscher, Laura L Bauer, Vishnupriya Gourineni, Christine L Pelkman, George C Fahey, Jr., and Kelly S Swanson. J. Nutr. 2015; 145:2025-2032 doi:10.3945/jn.115.217331

  • Conclusions: Agave inulin supplementation shifted the gastrointestinal microbiota composition and activity in healthy adults. Further investigation is warranted to determine whether the observed changes translate into health benefits in human populations.  [Note: Agave inulin is a prebiotic, a fiber that can be metabolized by intestinal bacteria.  The study reports enrichment of fecal Bifidobacterium (the good kind)].
  • Funding: Supported in part by Global Nutrition R&D, Ingredion Incorporated, Bridgewater, NJ.  V Gourineni and CL Pelkman are employees of Global Nutrition R&D, Ingredion, Incorporated.  [Ingredion manufactures prebiotic fibers]

As always, please send examples, particularly of industry-funded studies that do not produce results in the sponsor’s interest.

Sep 2 2015

Soda Politics: the first copy!

Soda Politics is out (almost)!  It ships to preorders next week!

Capture

Max Sinsheimer, my editor at Oxford University Press, just gave me this advance copy.

The official publication date is October 5, but copies should be widely available well before then.  Enjoy!

For information about it, click here.

Sep 1 2015

GM potato approved for production

On Friday, the USDA announced that it approved production of “Innate” potatoes, genetically modified by the Simplot company to

  • Resist blight
  • Store longer at cold temperatures
  • Not turn brown when cooked
  • Produce less acrylamide

The official Federal Register notice is published here.

Earlier this year, the FDA “completed its consultation” with Simplot:

Simplot’s varieties of Ranger Russet, Russet Burbank and Atlantic potatoes are collectively known by the trade name “Innate” and are genetically engineered to reduce the formation of black spot bruises by lowering the levels of certain enzymes in the potatoes.

In addition, they are engineered to produce less acrylamide by lowering the levels of an amino acid called asparagine and by lowering the levels of reducing-sugars. Acrylamide is a chemical that can form in some foods during high-temperature cooking, such as frying, and has been found to be carcinogenic in rodents.

These sound like useful traits.  According to the Simplot video (worth watching), the company is proud of having produced a “better, more sustainable potato.”

Questions:

  • Will Simplot voluntarily label its potatoes as genetically modified with enhanced characteristics?  There is precedent for doing so.  In the early 1990s, Calgene intended to do just that with its GM tomatoes (but the tomatoes failed in production and Monsanto bought the company).
  • Will McDonald’s use Innate potatoes for its French Fries?
  • Will supermarkets carry them?

I will be watching this one with great interest.

Aug 31 2015

Bacteria in ground beef dangerous or natural? Depends on point of view, apparently.

Consumer Reports has just done a major report on the safety of ground beef.

In its announcement of the report, Consumer Reports says:

All 458 pounds of beef we examined contained bacteria that signified fecal contamination (enterococcus and/or nontoxin-producing E. coli)…Almost 20 percent contained C. perfringens, a bacteria that causes almost 1 million cases of food poisoning annually. Ten percent of the samples had a strain of S. aureus bacteria that can produce a toxin that can make you sick…One of the most significant findings of our research is that beef from conventionally raised cows was more likely to have bacteria overall, as well as bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, than beef from sustainably raised cows.

For public health people, results like this should send alarm signals.  The presence of E. coli, even the non-toxic type, indicates fecal contamination.  This is more than a yuck problem.  If E. coli is there, dangerous fecal pathogens could be there too.

But the North American Meat Institute headlined its response: “Consumer Reports Ground Beef Study Confirms Strong Safety of Ground Beef.”

The “bacteria identified in the Consumer Reports testing are types that rarely cause foodborne illness. Bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus, and generic E. coli are commonly found in the environment and are not considered pathogenic bacteria…Bacteria occur naturally on all raw food products from beef to blueberries so finding certain types on some foods in a grocery store is not surprising and should not be concerning,”

For the meat industry, fecal contamination is normal, natural, and you don’t need to worry about it—just be sure to cook your meat to a temperature high enough to kill all pathogens.

Good luck with that.

My advice: if you like ground beef rare, go to a butcher shop and ask to have one piece of meat ground for you in a freshly cleaned grinder.

Aug 28 2015

Weekend reading: Vanessa Domine’s Healthy Teens, Healthy Schools

Vanessa Domine.  Healthy Teens, Healthy Schools: How Media Literacy Can Renew Education in the United States.  Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.

Image result for Healthy Teens, Healthy Schools

Here’s my blurb:

If you are not concerned about the effects of exposure to electronic media on the health of teenagers, you should be.   This book presents a well-researched, highly compelling case for the urgent need for media literacy education to be incorporated into school wellness programs as soon as possible.

For information about how online marketing affects kids’ food choices, take a look at the work of the Berkeley Media Studies Group, particularly in media advocacy training.

Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) also has resources about online marketing to kids (scroll down for a list).

Aug 26 2015

Five more industry-funded studies with expected results. Score: 47 to 1

The Inadmissibility of What We Eat in America and NHANES Dietary Data in Nutrition and Obesity Research and the Scientific Formulation of National Dietary Guidelines. Archer EPavela GLavie CJ. Mayo Clin Proc. 2015 Jul;90(7):911-26. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2015.04.009. Epub 2015 Jun 9.

  • Conclusion: we conclude that M-BM [memory-based dietary assessment methods] data cannot be used to inform national dietary guidelines and that the continued funding of M-BMs constitutes an unscientific and major misuse of research resources.
  • Funding: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.
  • Potential Competing Interests: Dr Archer has received honoraria from the International Life Sciences Institute and The Coca Cola Company. Dr Lavie reports receiving consulting fees and speaking fees from The Coca-Cola Company….
  • Comment: This is part of what appears to be a concerted effort by Coca-Cola to discredit NHANES, the national survey of dietary intake and disease risk that consistently associates soda intake to poor health.

A high-protein breakfast prevents body fat gain, through reductions in daily intake and hunger, in “Breakfast skipping” adolescents.  Heather J. Leidy, Heather A. Hoertel, Steve M. Douglas, Kelly A. Higgins and Rebecca S. Shafer.  Obesity.  Article first published online: 4 AUG 2015.  DOI: 10.1002/oby.21185

  • Conclusions: The daily addition of a HP [high-protein] breakfast improved indices of weight management as illustrated by the prevention of body fat gain, voluntary reductions in daily intake, and reductions in daily hunger in breakfast skipping adolescents with overweight/obesity.
  • Funding: The Pork Checkoff supplied the funds to complete the study.
  • Disclosure: The authors declared no conflict of interest.
  • Comment: Industry-funded investigators typically state that funding does not introduce conflicts of interest.

Breakfasts Higher in Protein Increase Postprandial Energy Expenditure, Increase Fat Oxidation, and Reduce Hunger in Overweight Children from 8 to 12 Years of Age.  Jamie I Baum, Michelle Gray, and Ashley Binns.  J. Nutrition.  First published August 12, 2015, doi: 10.3945/jn.115.214551  J. Nutr. jn214551

  • Conclusion: This study indicates that breakfast macronutrient composition affects postprandial responses in both NW [normal weight] and OW [overweight] children. A PRO [protein-rich breakfast] increases postprandial EE [energy expendititure] and fat oxidation, reduces hunger, and increases satiety when compared with a carbohydrate-based breakfast.
  • Funding: Supported by a grant from the Egg Nutrition Center/American Egg Board, Chicago, IL. The Egg Nutrition Center/American Egg Board was not involved in the design, implementation, analysis, or interpretation of the data.
  • Author disclosures: JI Baum, M Gray, and A Binns, no conflicts of interest.
  • Comment: These industry-funded investigators also deny that funding introduces conflicts of interest.

The Effect of Breakfast vs. No Breakfast on Brain Activity in Adolescents when Performing Cognitive Tasks, as Assessed by fMRI [functional magnetic resonance imaging].  Jonathan Fulford1, Joanna L Varley2 and Craig A Williams.   Nutritional Neuroscience 2015 epub ahead of print.

  • Conclusion: Although no statistically significant (P > 0.05) improvement in task performance was determined, significantly higher activation was recorded in the frontal, premotor, and primary visual cortex areas in the breakfast trial relative to the fasting condition…Such a finding may have important implications in the examination of the role of diet, and specifically breakfast, in determining children’s performance within the school environment.
  • Funding: A grant was received of £18,678.08 from Kellogg Marketing & Sales Company (UK) Ltd to cover MRI scanning costs. Otherwise the research was conducted with the support of internal institutional funds and the authors received no other direct or indirect support, with no further competing interests.
  • Comment: Ordinarily I’m not concerned about food companies’ donating products to be tested but £18,678.08 seems noteworthy, especially since the only point of this study is to demonstrate that breakfast-eaters do better (higher brain activation even though no significant gain in task performance).

Suboptimal Serum α-Tocopherol Concentrations Observed among Younger Adults and Those Depending Exclusively upon Food Sources, NHANES 2003-2006. McBurney MI, Yu EA, Ciappio ED, Bird JK, Eggersdorfer M, Mehta S (2015). PLoS ONE 10(8): e0135510. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0135510

  • Conclusion: The prevalence of inadequate vitamin E levels is significantly higher among non-users of dietary supplements…Our findings provide evidence that most Americans have serum α-tocopherol levels below 30 μmol/L. The EAR [Estimated Average Requirement], epidemiological and randomized controlled studies all indicate that maintaining a serum α-tocopherol concentration of 30 μmol/L may have beneficial effects on mortality, cognitive function and reproduction [Note: “may” indicates that what follows is speculative].
  • Funding: This statistical analysis of data collected by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)…was supported by DSM Nutritional Products, a manufacturer of vitamin E. MM, EC, JB and ME are employees of DSM Nutritional Products. DSM Nutritional Products provided support in the form of salaries for authors MM, EC, JB, and ME and as an unencumbered gift to Cornell University that was used to support EY as a graduate research assistant.
  • Competing interests: This study was supported by DSM Nutritional Products, a manufacturer of vitamins, including vitamin E, for food, dietary supplement, and pharmaceutical use. MM, EC, JB, and ME are employees of DSM Nutritional Products.
  • Comment: Inadequate vitamin E in this study is defined as a serum level below a certain cut-point with uncertain clinical significance.  According to the Dietary Reference Intakes, clinical signs of vitamin E deficiency have not been observed in healthy populations.

Note: Since mid-March, I have posted 47 industry-funded studies with results favorable to food companies or trade associations, vs. 1 study with unfavorable results.

If you see industry-funded studies with results that must have made the sponsor unhappy, please send.

Aug 25 2015

Update on the school meal situation

School is starting and the school food debates will no doubt be starting up again.

The USDA has a new report on what’s happening with adoption of the new nutrition standards.

  • A national study of elementary school principals and foodservice managers finds the majority (63%) to agree or strongly agree (7%) that students seem to like the new lunches.
  • The participation rate for paid school lunches declined from FY 2008 through FY 2014, with steeper declines during FY 2012-2014.  This could be do to the changes in standards but is more likely the result of higher prices charged for meals.
  • Smaller, more rural, and wealthier districts had the most difficulty adopting the new meal standards. Higher meal prices affected smaller and more rural districts.

The 2015 School Food Poll conducted by the Kellogg Foundation just reported:

  • 90% of respondents support the national school nutrition standards.
  • 86% say the school nutrition standards should stay the same or be strengthened.
  • 91% say kids need access to safe drinking water in schools.
  • 88% support increased government funding to expand farm to school programs.
  • 84% believe sustainable agriculture should be part of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The Kellogg Foundation provides

My interpretation: The nutrition standards are working well enough but it’s time to advocate even more strongly for universal school meals.  It’s absurd and unconscionable that poor kids are getting priced out of school meals.

Addition: The School Nutrition Association, the group doing everything it can to undermine the new nutrition standards, has just issued a report finding that the standards have caused severe financial harm to 70% of schools.  The reason?

There is strong consensus as to the leading reason for the decline in lunch ADP: decreased student acceptance of meals [.underlined in report].

The report does, however, provide a table of reasons for increased costs:

  • Increased per meal food costs — 70.1%
  • Decreased lunch participation — 56.8%
  • Decreased a la carte revenue — 53.0%
  • Increased labor/benefits costs — 48.5%
  • Declining student enrollment — 20.6%

Given these results, you might think the SNA would be lobbying night and day for higher reimbursement rates, but no such luck.  The SNA is lobbying for weaker standards.  Pity.

Addition, August 25:  A study from the University of Vermont finds school kids to be consuming slightly fewer servings of fruits and vegetables since the nutrition standards were implemented and to be producing 56% more plate waste.  This is not good news.

Addition, August 28:  But a CDC study finds that in 2014, schools were making significant progress:

  • Almost all schools offered whole grain foods each day for breakfast (97.2%) and lunch (94.4%)
  • Most schools offered two or more vegetables (79.4%) and two or more fruits (78.0%) each day for lunch.
  • Approximately one third (30.5%) of schools offered self-serve salad bars.
  • Among the 55.0% of schools that prepared food at the school, about half were trying hard to reduce salt.
  • Overall, 97.5% of schools used at least one of the nine school nutrition services practices examined, with 23.9% using one to three of the practices, 48.3% using four to six of the practices, and 25.3% using seven or more of the practices.

My interpretation: Schools are moving to adopt the new nutrition standards.  Some are succeeding better than others.  The outcome of studies therefore depends on whether you see the glass as half full, or empty.

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