by Marion Nestle

Search results: Immunity

Apr 10 2020

One more time: Is it safe to eat fresh foods from supermarkets and what to do about the packages

I know I’ve talked about what foods are safe to eat earlier (see previous post), but from the number of queries I’m getting it’s clear that this matter needs further discussion.

I can understand why this is so confusing.  Nobody gives a straight answer.

Let me start with the CDC’s advice:

How’s that for reassuring?

Consumer Reports: Answers to Common Questions About Coronavirus and the Food You Eat

The CDC, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture, and the World Health Organization say that food is not known to be a route of transmission of the virus. And the information available from outbreaks of SARS and MERS, caused by coronaviruses similar to the one that causes COVID-19, is reassuring. According to the WHO, the evidence showed that those illnesses were not transmitted by food.

Seattle Times: Debunking 10 myths about the Coronavirus

MYTH: The coronavirus can’t survive airborne or on surfaces.

FACT: Researchers have found that droplets carrying the virus can travel through the air and stay suspended for about half an hour. They can also settle on surfaces, where the virus can last longer — up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 72 hours on plastic and steel. The risk of getting infected from touching these materials, however, remains low because the virus’ ability to infect decreases rapidly over time.  Source: The New York Times

Washington Post: Why health experts aren’t warning about coronavirus in food

The CDC and other experts note that the virus is new and still being studied. But they say there’s no evidence yet that COVID-19 sickens people through their digestive systems, though the virus has been detected in the feces of infected people.

Washington Post:  Grocery shopping during the coronavirus: Wash your hands, keep your distance and limit trips

In my paraphrasing:

  • Don’t go to the grocery store unless you have to
  • Wear a face mask

JAMA’s Patient Page on food safety and the virus

My bottom line on how to interpret all this

Maybe this virus has not been shown to be transmitted through food—yet—but why be the first case.  While waiting for the research—and let’s hope it comes soon—following the Washington Post’s and JAMA’s advice makes sense.

It’s also always a good idea to follow basic food safety principles for raw foods: clean, cook, separate, chill.

Cooking kills the virus.  Enjoy!

Have a happy, well fed, and safe weekend.

Resources

Mar 30 2020

Coronavirus and food: weekly update

RIP

  • Floyd Cardoz, a chef whose food I loved, is one of the early casualties.  I last talked to him at an event not six weeks ago.  He was having a hard time.  But to end like this?  A heartbreak.

Predictions of high risk

Effects on food systems

The alcohol industry responds

Here come the panaceas

Here come the frauds

For useful information

  • The CUNY Urban Food Policy Center is studying the effects of Covid-19 on New York City’s food system.  Its website is here.
  • The New York State Health Foundation has COVID-19 resources for nonprofits and community-based organizations, about food assistance as well as other matters.
Mar 24 2020

Coronavirus and food: this week’s update

From the New York Times

Does food transmit Coronavirus?  

Keeping up Coronoavirus  

How to survive working at home (watch out for junk food) 

How to take action

Advice for the food industry

  • US lays out new COVID-19 guidelines for food industry  The Trump Administration released a set of coronavirus guidelines for all Americans, with special provisions for critical infrastructure industries like food and beverage. Brands have been adapting this week to the new reality, while keeping employee safety a top priority…. Read more

What’s happening with supermarkets and supply chains?

What to avoid: dubious schemes for immune boosting

Who profits from this?

What else?

Dec 18 2019

The latest in superfoods: camel’s milk?

Really?  Camel’s milk?  I am indebted to DairyReporter.com for a review of research on the health benefits of camel’s milk.

According to this overview, camel’s milk can

  • Prevent colorectal cancer
  • Reduce cellular inflammation due to diabetes
  • Cures autism
  • Enhances immunity
  • Cures hepatitis
  • Prevents food allergies

A miracle food?

Alas, the article explains, most of these studies were performed in mice or published in journals unlikely to be rigorously peer reviewed.

What can I tell you about the nutritional quality of camel’s milk?

Unfortunately, the USDA’s food composition data base does not have an entry for camel’s milk.  What looks like a reasonable review of the nutritional value of camel’s milk (which you can download from this site) suggests that there are differences in nutrient composition between cow’s and camel’s milks, but the differences are small.  Because the proteins differ, people sensitive or allergic to cow’s milk will have an easier time consuming camel’s milk.

The big issue with camel’s milk in the United States is that it is not pasteurized.  Raw milk carries a greater food safety risk than pasteurized milk.

The FDA also has issued a warning against unproven claims that camel milk prevents autism.

I’m not seeing any particular health benefits from drinking camel milk other than avoiding allergic reactions to cow’s milk.

If you insist on drinking it, make sure it comes from a producer who diligently tests it for pathogens.

Tags:
May 22 2019

Annals of marketing: dairy-based functional drinks in Asia

A notice from FoodNavigator-Asia got my attention: Coca-Cola is partnering with the New Zealand dairy company Fonterra to produce “Nutriboost” products for Southeast Asia.

What are these?

  • Nutriboost Kids is targeted at children above three years of age, with each of its products being fortified with different occasion-based vitamins and minerals:…Morning Growth (fortified with vitamins for growth), Playtime (designed for stronger immunity) and Good Night (fortified with DHA for brain development).
  • Nutriboost To-Go is an energy-providing breakfast range enriched with oats and fibre.
  • Nutriboost Beauty is fortified with fitness and beauty-associated minerals like collagen and zinc.

Given the lack of evidence for significant nutritional benefits of any of these things, and the high prevalence of lactose intolerance among Asian populations, why this partnership?

  • Vietnam is the third largest dairy market in the ASEAN region.
  • To grow [sales] to 40 million or 50 million cases within the next five years.
  • Coca-Cola’s strategy is to evolve away from drinks with high sugar content.

The article doesn’t say how much money is going into this partnership, but both companies must think there is a big market for such products.

I’m not a fan of “functional” foods, alas.

Real food, anyone?

Feb 21 2018

The ongoing debates over glyphosate (Monsanto’s Roundup)

What do we know about the carcinogenicity of glyphosate?

The International Agency on Research on Cancer (IARC) said it was “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, the glyphosate herbicide used widely on genetically modified crops, was not happy with this decision and has been doing all it can to cast doubt on that research.

Some of its efforts are documented in this report:

Republicans on the House science committee have repeatedly tried to get IARC to admit its judgment was based on inadequate evidence.  The chair of the committee wrote IARC complaining about its report and asking for someone to come and testify about it.  IARC declined.  In yet another letter the committee said it would stop funding IARC, to which IARC asked that its immunity be respected.

How to understand all this?  A lot of money is at stake.  In this diagram, HT means herbicide tolerance (e.g., Roundup glyphosate):

 

 

Feb 9 2016

Studies funded by a garlic supplement maker find specific health benefits for garlic. The score: 119/11.

I’m having trouble keeping up with industry-sponsored nutrition research so will use this week’s posts to catch up.  I’ll start with this one.

Nutrition journals often publish supplements on specific themes that are paid for by outside parties, food industry groups among them.  The February 2016 issue of the Journal of Nutrition contains a supplement with the papers from the 2014 International Garlic Symposium: “Role of Garlic in Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, Metabolic Syndrome, and Immunology.”

To distinguish supplement papers from peer-reviewed journal articles, citations give page numbers with the letter S.  The Journal of Nutrition’s exceptionally clear policy on supplement publications explains that organizers are expected to pay page charges of $75 per article and $300 per published page plus additional editorial costs as needed.  It views supplements as paid advertisements and requires full disclosure of funding sources.

Here’s the disclosure for the garlic supplement.

The symposium was sponsored by the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine and the University of Florida and co-sponsored by the American Botanical Council; the American Herbal Products Association; the ASN [American Society for Nutrition]; the Japanese Society for Food Factors; the Japan Society for Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Agrochemistry; the Japan Society of Nutrition and Food Science; and the Natural Products Association. The symposium was supported by Agencias Motta S.A.; Bionam; Eco-Nutraceuticos; Healthy U 2000 Ltd.; Magna; Mannavita Bvba; MaxiPharma; Medica Nord A.S.; Nature’s Farm Pte. Ltd.; Nature Valley W.L.L.; Organic Health Ltd.; Oy Valioravinto Ab; Purity Life Health Products L.P.; PT Nutriprima Jayasakti; Vitaco Health Ltd.; Vitae Natural Nutrition; Sanofi Consumer Health Care; Wakunaga Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.; and Wakunaga of America Co., Ltd. The Chair of the conference and Scientific Program Coordinator for the supplement publication was Matthew J Budoff, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Torrance, CA. Scientific Program Coordinator disclosures: MJ Budoff has been awarded research grants from Wakunaga of America Co., Ltd., and received an honorarium for serving as Chair of the conference. Vice-Chair and Supplement Coordinator for the supplement publication was Susan S Percival, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. Supplement Coordinator disclosures: SS Percival has been awarded research grants from Wakunaga of America Co., Ltd., and received an honorarium for serving as Vice-Chair of the conference. Publication costs for this supplement were defrayed in part by the payment of page charges. This publication must therefore be hereby marked “advertisement” in accordance with 18 USC section 1734 solely to indicate this fact. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and are not attributable to the sponsors or the publisher, Editor, or Editorial Board of The Journal of Nutrition [my emphasis].

Comment on scoring: Because they were presented at a symposium sponsored by food and supplement companies, all papers raise questions about industry sponsorship.  That is why the Journal requires every paper in the supplement to repeat this funding disclosure in its entirety.

But for this particular symposium, some of the papers report additional funding by Wakunaga of America, a company that, no surprise, manufactures garlic supplements.

All of the papers produced results useful to the sponsor.  Some of them, however, were independently funded and the authors report no links to the sponsor other than having given a talk at the meeting.  They did not disclose who paid for travel and hotels and without any way to check, I must assume that they paid their own expenses to the meeting in San Diego.  For the purposes of scoring, I’m not counting them as industry-funded, even though their presence at the symposium made it seem more scientifically credible.

Garlic Lowers Blood Pressure in Hypertensive Individuals, Regulates Serum Cholesterol, and Stimulates Immunity: An Updated Meta-analysis and Review.  Karin Ried.  J Nutr. 2016; 146:389S-396S doi:10.3945/jn.114.202192.

  • Conclusions: Our review suggests that garlic supplements have the potential to lower blood pressure in hypertensive individuals, to regulate slightly elevated cholesterol concentrations, and to stimulate the immune system. Garlic supplements are highly tolerated and may be considered as a complementary treatment option for hypertension, slightly elevated cholesterol, and stimulation of immunity.
  • Author disclosures: K Ried, no conflicts of interest. K Ried received travel sponsorship from Wakunaga of America Co. Ltd. to attend the 2014 International Garlic Symposium.
  • Score: industry-positive

Chemical Assignment of Structural Isomers of Sulfur-Containing Metabolites in Garlic by Liquid Chromatography−Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance−Mass Spectrometry.  Ryo Nakabayashi, Yuji Sawada, Morihiro Aoyagi, Yutaka Yamada, Masami Yokota Hirai, Tetsuya Sakurai, Takahiro Kamoi, Daryl D Rowan, and Kazuki Saito.  J. Nutr. 2016; 146:397S-402S doi:10.3945/jn.114.202317.

  • Conclusion: The ability to discriminate between such geometric isomers will be extremely useful for the chemical assignment of unknown metabolites in MS-based metabolomics.
  • Supported, in part, by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan; Japan Advanced Plant Science Network; Japan Science Technology Agency (JST), Strategic International Collaborative Research Program (SICORP); and JST, Strategic International Research Cooperative Program (SICP).
  • Score: industry-neutral

Garlic-Derived Organic Polysulfides and Myocardial Protection.  Jessica M Bradley, Chelsea L Organ, and David J Lefer.  J. Nutr. 2016; 146:403S-409S doi:10.3945/jn.114.208066.

  • Conclusion: The beneficial health effects of garlic on cardiovascular health are dependent on multiple mechanisms. Furthermore, the mechanisms of action may be mediated by the active components in garlic.
  • Supported by grants from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (1R01 HL092141, 1R01 HL093579, 1U24 HL 094373, and 1P20 HL113452; to DJL) and by the Louisiana State University Health Foundation in New Orleans.
  • Score: Industry-neutral

Aged Garlic Extract Inhibits Human Platelet Aggregation by Altering Intracellular Signaling and Platelet Shape Change.  Khalid Rahman, Gordon M Lowe, and Sarah Smith.  J. Nutr. 2016; 146:410S-415S doi:10.3945/jn.114.202408

  • Conclusion: These results indicate that AGE [Aged Garlic Extract] inhibits platelet aggregation by increasing cyclic nucleotides and inhibiting fibrinogen binding and platelet shape change.
  • Funding: Supported by a grant from Wakunaga of America Co. Ltd.  K Rahman and GM Lowe were in receipt of a grant from Wakunaga of America Co., Ltd. S Smith, no conflicts of interest.
  • Score: industry-positive

Garlic and Heart Disease.  Ravi Varshney and Matthew J Budoff.  J. Nutr. 2016; 146:416S-421S doi:10.3945/jn.114.202333

  • Conclusion: We conclude that garlic supplementation has the potential for cardiovascular protection based on risk factor reduction (hypertension and total cholesterol) and surrogate markers (CRP, PWV, and CAC) of atherosclerosis.
  • Disclosures: The authors report no funding received for this study.  R Varshney, no conflicts of interest. MJ Budoff receives funding from Wakunaga of America Co., Ltd.
  • Score: industry-positive

The Role of Adiponectin in Cardiometabolic Diseases: Effects of Nutritional Interventions.  Patricio Lopez-Jaramillo.  J. Nutr. 2016; 146:422S-426S doi:10.3945/jn.114.202432

  • Conclusions: Recently, it was reported that the administration of aged garlic extract and a single food intervention with pistachios can increase adiponectin concentrations in individuals with metabolic syndrome. Moreover, the Mediterranean diet is associated with higher adiponectin concentrations. Additional studies are needed to evaluate the potential benefits of increasing adiponectin by nutritional interventions in the treatment and prevention of cardiometabolic diseases.
  • Funding: The author reports no funding received for this study.
  • Score:  Industry-neutral

Aged Garlic Extract Reduces Low Attenuation Plaque in Coronary Arteries of Patients with Metabolic Syndrome in a Prospective Randomized Double-Blind Study.  Suguru Matsumoto, Rine Nakanishi, Dong Li, Anas Alani, Panteha Rezaeian, Sach Prabhu, Jeby Abraham, Michael A Fahmy, Christopher Dailing, Ferdinand Flores, Sajad Hamal, Alexander Broersen, Pieter H Kitslaar, and Matthew J Budoff.  J. Nutr. 2016; 146:427S-432S doi:10.3945/jn.114.202424

  • Conclusions: This study indicates that the %LAP [Low Attenuation Plaque] change was significantly greater in the AGE group than in the placebo group. Further studies are needed to evaluate whether AGE has the ability to stabilize vulnerable plaque and decrease adverse cardiovascular events.
  • Disclosures: While the study was funded by Wakunaga of America Co., Ltd., the authors are solely responsible for the design, all study analyses, the drafting and editing of the paper and its final contents…S Matsumoto, R Nakanishi, D Li, A Alani, P Rezaeian, S Prabhu, J Abraham, MA Fahmy, C Dailing, F Flores, S Hamal, and A Broersen, no conflicts of interest. PH Kitslaar is employed by Medis Medical Imaging Systems and has a research appointment at the Leiden University Medical Center. MJ Budoff receives funding from Wakunaga of America Co., Ltd.
  • Score: industry-positive

Aged Garlic Extract Modifies Human Immunity.  Susan S Percival.  J.  Nutr. 2016; 146:433S-436S doi:10.3945/jn.115.210427

  • Conclusions: These results suggest that AGE supplementation may enhance immune cell function and may be partly responsible for the reduced severity of colds and flu reported. The results also suggest that the immune system functions well with AGE supplementation, perhaps with less accompanying inflammation.
  • Funding: Support for this research was provided by Wakunaga of America Co., Ltd.  Author disclosures: SS Percival received travel expenses to the conference where this work was presented.
  • Score: industry-positive

Bioavailability of Alfrutamide and Caffedymine and Their P-Selectin Suppression and Platelet-Leukocyte Aggregation Mechanisms in Mice.  Jae B Park.  J. Nutr. 2016; 146:437S-443S doi:10.3945/jn.114.202473

  • Conclusions: These data show the adequate bioavailability of alfrutamide and caffedymine and their different mechanisms of suppressing PSE and PLA: alfrutamide exerts its effects only via COX inhibition, whereas caffedymine works through both COX inhibition and cAMP amplification.
  • Funding: Supported by the USDA (project 8040-51000-057-00).
  • Score: Industry-neutral

Garlic Influences Gene Expression In Vivo and In Vitro.  Craig S Charron, Harry D Dawson, and Janet A Novotny.  J. Nutr. 2016; 146:444S-449S doi:10.3945/jn.114.202481

  • Conclusion: Measuring mRNA gene expression in whole blood may provide a unique window to understanding how garlic intake affects human health.
  • Support: CSC, HDD, and JAN were supported by the USDA.
  • Score: Industry-neutral.

Development of an Analytic Method for Sulfur Compounds in Aged Garlic Extract with the Use of a Postcolumn High Performance Liquid Chromatography Method with Sulfur-Specific Detection.  Toshiaki Matsutomo and Yukihiro Kodera.  J. Nutr. 2016; 146:450S-455S doi:10.3945/jn.114.208520

  • Conclusion: We developed a rapid postcolumn HPLC method for both qualitative and quantitative analyses of sulfur compounds, and this method helped elucidate a potential mechanism of cis-S1PC and SAMC action in AGE.
  • Acknowledgment: The authors thank Takami Oka of Wakunaga Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. for his kind guidance for this study and critical review of the manuscript.
  • Score: Industry-positive

Pharmacokinetics of S-Allyl-L-cysteine in Rats Is Characterized by High Oral Absorption and Extensive Renal Reabsorption.  Hirotaka Amano, Daichi Kazamori, and Kenji Itoh.  J. Nutr. 2016; 146:456S-459S doi:10.3945/jn.114.201749

  • Conclusion: The pharmacokinetics of SAC in rats were characterized by high oral absorption, limited metabolism, and extensive renal reabsorption, all of which potentially contribute to its high and relatively long-lasting plasma concentrations.
  • Acknowledgment: We thank Takami Oka of Wakunaga Pharmaceutical Co. for his valuable advice, critical reading of the manuscript, and helpful suggestions.
  • Score: Industry-positive

Aged Garlic Extract Suppresses the Development of Atherosclerosis in Apolipoprotein E–Knockout Mice.  Naoaki Morihara, Atsuko Hino, Takako Yamaguchi, and Jun-ichiro Suzuki. J. Nutr. 2016; 146:460S-463S doi:10.3945/jn.114.206953

  • Conclusion: These data suggest that the antiatherosclerotic activity of AGE is at least partly due to the suppression of inflammation and lipid deposition in the vessels during the early stage of atherosclerotic development in ApoE-KO mice.
  • Acknowledgment: We thank Takami Oka of Wakunaga Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., for his helpful advice, encouragement, and critical reading of this manuscript; Yukihiro Kodera of Wakunaga Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., for the preparation of AGE; and Tadamitsu Tsuneyoshi of Wakunaga Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., for his technical advice.
  • Score: Industry-positive

This makes 8 industry-positives from this journal supplement.

But let me add one more on this topic, sent by a reader:

The effect of aged garlic extract on blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors in uncontrolled hypertensives: the AGE at Heart trial.  Karin Ried Nikolaj Travica, Avni Sali.  Integrated Blood Pressure Control, 27 January 2016.

  • Conclusion: Our trial suggests that aged garlic extract is effective in reducing peripheral and central blood pressure in a large proportion of patients with uncontrolled hypertension, and has the potential to improve arterial stiffness, inflammation, and other cardiovascular markers in patients with elevated levels. Aged garlic extract was highly tolerable with a high safety profile as a stand-alone or adjunctive antihypertensive treatment.
  • Funding: This trial was supported by a grant from Wakunaga of America Co Ltd, who sup­plied trial capsules and provided funding for costs of tests and research assistance. Wakunaga of America was not involved in study design, data collection, analysis, or prepa­ration of the manuscript…The authors report no conflicts of interest in this work.
  • Score: industry-positive, of course.

This brings the score since last March to 119 industry-positives/11 industry-negatives.

Apr 6 2015

Is SmartCandy smart policy?

I was surprised by FoodNavigator-USA’s story about “SmartCandy,”—a “vitamin-infused snack.

smart candy

Could the name and contents of this candy be violating the FDA’s “jelly bean” rule?

The “jelly bean” rule refers to FDA’s fortification policy,* which aims to discourage food and beverage makers from adding vitamins to “foods of minimal nutritional value” (a.k.a. junk foods) so they can be marketed as healthy.

The policy is explicit.  The FDA does not consider it appropriate to add nutrients to candies and beverages.

Here’s what the article says about what’s in it:

Smartcandy is formulated with a blend of Vitamin A for eye health, three B vitamins to support converting sugar and carbohydrates into sustained energy, and vitamin C for immunity. The trans fat-, high-fructose corn syrup-free candies come in four varieties: sweet and sour gummies; and Froot, a proprietary snack with a candy shell and a layer of yogurt encasing a strawberry or orange center.

Here’s the Nutrition Facts label (thanks to a reader for sending).

Here’s what the website says Orange Froot candy can do:

This is the visionary leader of the snacking world, it’s the one they listen to and admire. He can make a three point shot with his eyes closed, build the best fort you’ve ever seen, or solve an algebra question like it was a nursery rhyme, this flavor packed snack will push you to achieve anything!

If SmartCandy can get away with this, won’t Coca-Cola and Pepsi be next?

Candy is candy and has an place in kids’s diets—occasionally.  But a health food that makes kids do better in school?  I’d like to see the evidence for that.

FDA: take a look please.

*Thanks to Michael Jacobson for forwarding.

Update, April 13: The New York State Attorney General has filed a complaint.