Archive for February 2012

UK fruit and veg consumption near bottom of European league

Britons eat less fruit and vegetables than people in any other major European country according to new research.UK fruit and veg consumption near bottom of European leagueOnly people in Finland, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Iceland eat less a report by the European Food Information Council found.

On average, Britons eat 258 grams, or 9.1 ounces, of fruit and vegetables a day – significantly less than the 400g (14.1oz) minimum recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

That figure – and those measured in the report – excludes potatoes and other starchy vegetables.

The study suggests successive attempts to get people to eat ‘five-a-day’ items of fruit and veg have had limited impact – although consumption has increased since the 1970s.

Only four of 19 countries surveyed reached the WHO target, with Poland (577g) coming top of the class, The Grocer reported. It was followed by Italy (452g), Germany (442g) and Austria (413g).

High consumption of fruit and vegetables has been associated with lower risk of developing a range of chronic diseases, including a range of cancers such as those of the bowel and throat, and cardiovascular disease, the report noted.

It also identified a ‘north-south divide’ when it came to consumption, with northern European nations tending to eat less than those in the south – feted by public health experts for its “Mediterranean diet”.

“Consumption varies, with higher intakes in southern compared to the northern regions,” according to the report.

However, it also discovered that people in northern nations such as the UK were more likely to eat their vegetables raw, which tends to conserve their nutritional value, while those in the south tended to consume them more in soups.

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Scientists find fat is the sixth human taste

Scientists have discovered a sixth basic taste that the human tongue can detect – fat.Scientists find fat is the sixth human tasteFor generations, scientists thought the human tongue could detect only four basic tastes: sweet, sour, salt and bitter.

Then a fifth was discovered, “umami” or savoury. Now, researchers have identified a previously-unrecognised “sixth taste” – fat.

A team in the United States has located a chemical receptor in the taste buds on the tongue that recognises fat molecules, and found that its sensitivity varies between individuals.

The finding may help to explain why some people consume more fatty foods, as they are less aware of the taste as they eat.

The researchers hope their discovery can be exploited to combat obesity by increasing people’s sensitivity to fat in their food.

Apart from the basic tastes, other aspects of food flavour actually come from the smell and are detected in the nose.

The research team, from the school of medicine at Washington University, St Louis, showed that people with more of a receptor called CD36 were better at detecting the presence of fat in food.

They found that variations in a gene that produces CD36 makes people more or less sensitive to the presence of fat.

“The ultimate goal is to understand how our perception of fat in food might influence what foods we eat and the qualities of fat that we consume,” said Professor Nada Abumrad, who led the research.

“We’ve found one potential reason for individual variability in how people sense fat. What we will need to determine in the future is whether our ability to detect fat in foods influences our fat intake, which clearly would have an impact on obesity.”

The study, which is published in the Journal of Lipid Research, found that those with half as much CD36 were eight times less sensitive to the presence of fat.

Up to 20 per cent of people are believed to have a variant of the CD36 gene that is associated with producing lower levels of the receptor, which could mean they are less sensitive to the presence of fat in food. This may make them more prone to obesity.

From:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Scientists-find-fat-is-the-sixth-human-taste

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Alzheimer’s- diet can stop brain shrinking

A diet rich in vitamins and fish may protect the brain from Alzheimers and ageing while junk food has the opposite effect new research suggests.Alzheimer's- diet can stop brain shrinkingElderly people with high blood levels of vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids had less brain shrinkage and better mental performance, a Neurology study found.

Trans fats found in fast foods were linked to lower scores in tests and more shrinkage typical of Alzheimer’s. They are common in processed foods, including cakes, biscuits and fried foods.

The best current advice is to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, not smoke, take regular exercise and keep blood pressure and cholesterol in check, said Alzheimer’s Research UK.

The research looked at nutrients in blood, rather than relying on questionnaires to assess a person’s diet.  US experts analysed blood samples from 104 healthy people with an average age of 87 who had few known risk factors for Alzheimer’s.

They found those who had more vitamin B, C, D and E in their blood performed better in tests of memory and thinking skills. People with high levels of omega 3 fatty acids – found mainly in fish – also had high scores. The poorest scores were found in people who had more trans fats in their blood.

The researchers, from Oregon Health and Science University, Portland; Portland VA Medical Center; and Oregon State University, Corvallis, then carried out brain scans on 42 of the participants.

They found individuals with high levels of vitamins and omega 3 in their blood were more likely to have a large brain volume; while those with high levels of trans fat had a smaller total brain volume.

Study author Gene Bowman of Oregon Health and Science University said: “These results need to be confirmed, but obviously it is very exciting to think that people could potentially stop their brains from shrinking and keep them sharp by adjusting their diet.”

Co-author Maret Traber of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University said: “The vitamins and nutrients you get from eating a wide range of fruits, vegetables and fish can be measured in blood biomarkers.

Commenting on the study, Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:  “One strength of this research is that it looked at nutrients in people’s blood, rather than relying on answers to a questionnaire.”

“It’s important to note that this study looked at a small group of people with few risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, and did not investigate whether they went on to develop Alzheimer’s at a later stage.”

“There is a clear need for conclusive evidence about the effect of diet on our risk of Alzheimer’s, which can only come from large-scale, long-term studies.”

From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16344228

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Sugar tax needed say health experts

Sugar is as damaging and addictive as alcohol or tobacco and should be regulated claim US health experts.Sugar tax needed say health expertsAccording to a University of California team, new policies such as taxes are needed to control soaring consumption of sugar and sweeteners.

Prof Robert Lustig argues in the journal Nature for major shifts in public policy.

Several countries are imposing taxes on unhealthy food; Denmark and Hungary have a tax on saturated fat, while France has approved a tax on soft drinks.

Now, researchers in the US are proposing similar policies for added sugar and sweeteners, amid concern about the amount of sugar in the diet.

The consumption of sugar has tripled worldwide over the past 50 years, with links to obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

In a comment in the journal Nature, Prof Lustig, a leading child obesity expert, says governments need to consider major shifts in policy, such as taxes, limiting sales of sweet food and drinks during school hours, or even stopping children from buying them below a certain age.

The researchers acknowledge that they face “an uphill political battle against a powerful sugar lobby”.

But they write in Nature, that “with enough clamour for change, tectonic shifts in policy become possible”.

“Take, for instance bans on smoking in public places and the use of designated drivers, not to mention airbags in cars and condom dispensers in public bathrooms.

“These simple measures – which have all been on the battleground of American politics – are now taken for granted as essential tools for our public health and well-being. It’s time to turn our attention to sugar.”

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