Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Nov 26 2018

Industry-funded study of the week: beer hops improves Alzheimer’s (in mice, anyway)

Even though my book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eatis now published, I’m still collecting particularly entertaining examples of industry-funded research that should trigger the question, “Guess who paid for this?”

Matured Hop-Derived Bitter Components in Beer Improve Hippocampus-Dependent Memory Through Activation of the Vagus Nerve, by Tatsuhiro AyabeRena OhyaYoshimasa TaniguchiKazutoshi ShindoKeiji Kondo & Yasuhisa Ano .  Scientific Reports, 2018; 8: 15372.

Background: Our group has focused on the constituents of beer, and we found that iso-α-acids, major bitter components in beer derived from hops (Humulus lupulus L.), improve cognitive impairment in an Alzheimer’s disease (AD) mouse model and high fat diet-induced obese mice.

Conclusion: Vagus nerve activation by the intake of food materials including MHBA [matured hop bitter acids] may be a safe and effective approach for improving cognitive function.

Competing Interests: T.A., R.O., Y.T., K.K. and Y.A. are employed by Kirin Co., Ltd. The authors declare no other competing interests with this manuscript.

[Thanks to Eric Bardot and Maggie Tauranac for sending this excellent example}.

 

Nov 23 2018

WHO Europe report on marketing junk foods to kids: not much progress

Nobody should be surprised by the results of the latest WHO report on the lack of progress in curbing the marketing of highly processed junk foods to children.

 

The report looks at marketing policies across WHO Europe’s member countries.  The data show that while about half the countries have taken some steps to limit junk food marketing to kids, even these steps do not go nearly far enough.

Actions focus mainly on

  • Advertising but ignore other methods for reaching children.
  • Children up to age 12 or 13, but not others.

The report notes the need for more consistent definitions and regulations across the various countries, especially with respect to digital media.

The report documents the negative effects of highly processed foods on kids’ health.  It also documents the uphill nature of addressing this problem.

From the standpoint of the food industry, marketing to children in the line in the sand.  They cannot stop marketing to kids and still sell junk foods aimed at kids.

The report provides plenty of evidence for food companies’ prioritizing profit over public health.

Nov 22 2018

The Farmers’ Share of your Thanksgiving Dinner? 11 Cents.

The National Farmers’ Union computes the farmers’ share of the cost of your Thanksgiving dinner.

The farmers’ share?  11 cents.

How come?

And turkey growers, who raise the staple Thanksgiving dish, received just $0.06 per pound retailing at $1.29..that $0.06 figure—while striking on its own—is particularly egregious when considering the fact that poultry integrators received $0.53 per pound.

Happy Thanksgiving food politics.

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Nov 21 2018

New recommendations for type 2 diabetes in kids

Dr. Robert Lustig notes that the American Diabetes Association (ADA) has just released its newest guidelines for management of type 2 diabetes in children.

He has plenty to say about this organization, its ties to the pharmaceutical industry, and its lack of focus on effective dietary approaches to prevention and treatment—at a time when “insulin prices have soared into the stratosphere.”

The ADA, he says,

is a “bought” organization. Bought by Big Pharma. It’s only about the money. It’s not about lives or health or society. This is extortion. Big Food is Al Capone. And the ADA is Frank Nitti, his henchman.

The ADA recommendations do talk about physical activity and diet, but judge the evidence for them as not particularly strong (grades B and C).

These are standard recommendations, but difficult to follow consistently, not least because they are not nearly forceful or specific enough.

Dr. Lustig would like much greater emphasis on restricting sugars.  That’s a good place to begin.

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Nov 20 2018

Healthy diets: Variety?

I was surprised to read a recent paper in the American Heart Association journal arguing that dietary diversity may not be good for health:

“Eat a variety of foods,” or dietary diversity, is a widely
accepted recommendation to promote a healthy, nutritionally adequate
diet and to reduce the risk of major chronic diseases. However, recent
evidence from observational studies suggests that greater dietary diversity is associated with suboptimal eating patterns, that is, higher intakes of processed foods, refined grains, and sugar-sweetened beverages and lower intakes of minimally processed foods, such as fish, fruits, and vegetables, and may be associated with weight gain and obesity in adult populations.

Obviously, eating a variety of junk food is unlikely to improve health.  But the variety recommendation has never been intended to include junk food.

Here’s a summary of the variety recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines from 1980 to 2015:

These have increasingly specified healthy foods.

Eat your veggies!  Enjoy!

Nov 19 2018

A2 milk: still making claims based on industry-funded research

I haven’t said anything about A2 milk—milk from cows producing a different form of casein protein than cows producing regular A1 casein—since coming across it in Australia nearly three years ago.

Then, I was impressed that the manufacturer’s claims for A2 milk’s better digestibility were based entirely on studies paid for by—surprise!—the manufacturer (as I explain in my latest book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eatfood industry funding of nutrition research produces highly predictable results and, therefore, is not good for science, public health, or trust).

Now those companies are trying to sell A2 milk here (at a higher price, of course).

According to FoodNavigator-USA, the US dairy industry is not happy about these claims and brought them up before the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau, which referred the matter to the Federal Trade Commission.

At issue is the quality of the industry-funded research.

It’s easy to understand the dairy industry’s view that A2 milk will take market share away from conventional milk at a time when milk sales have been declining for years.

As for the benefits of A2 milk?  As with so many health claims, I’m betting that this one is more about marketing than health.

Caveat emptor.

 

Nov 16 2018

Principles for responsible international investment in food and agriculture

The Committee on World Food Security of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has a report out on this topic, well worth pondering.

 

Sustainability, respect, safety, health, transparency, accountability—all good ideas.  The trick is to put them into practice.

Nov 15 2018

Pet food: a roundup of recent stories

I maintain an active interest in pet food, even though my books on the topic came out a few years ago

Here are some recent items:

  1. Pet food is big business ($63 billion last year).  It brings people into supermarkets and boosts sales.  [OK.  You already knew this, no?]
  2. Evangers, a pet food maker occasionally in trouble over ingredient and food safety problems has been caught with horse meat in its products. It says it doesn’t use horse meat, even though it has a license to use it.  It blames its beef supplier.Private label pet food brands are selling well.   They are cheaper.  For the record: all complete-and-balanced pet foods are required to meet the same nutritional standards and to support dog and cat reproduction, growth, and development (they are like infant formula in that regard).
  3. Food safety issues for humans also mean food safety issues for pets. The CDC is warning people not to consume certain turkey products because of illnesses caused by Salmonella. “Evidence collected by federal officials investigating the illnesses has revealed the outbreak strain in samples from live turkeys and many kinds of raw turkey products, including pet food.”
  4. Raw pet food  continues to raise food safety risks: Rad Cat Raw Diet has been recalled due to Listeria contamination.   A case of human Salmonella illness has been linked to a Darwin’s raw pet food.
  5. And the FDA announces the recall of Nutrisca dry dog food with levels of vitamin D so excessive that they made dogs sick.
  6. Mars Veterinary, the biggest manufacturer of pet foods, is working on some new products made from—get this—lab-grown mouse meat.  No, I did not make this up; I got it from Business Insider.
  7. Wild Earth, Inc., a biotech pet food startup, sells treats made with lab-cultured protein from the koji fungus, Aspergillus oryzae.
  8. The humanification of pet food, says The Atlantic, is nearly complete.
  9. Whole Dog Journal asks this burning question: Should you feed ice cream to your dog? (The short answer is no, but this gives me a chance to praise Nancy Kerns’ admirably sensible advice about dog feeding, care, and training).

You can see why I love writing about pet food.