Saturated Fats

Can we cut sugar levels in our food?

The amount of sugar in some packaged food must be reduced, the health authorities say.

The amount of sugar in some packaged food must be reduced, the health authorities say.

It is an approach that has worked before, with salt – but can the trick be repeated?

Fifty years ago, everyday products, from bread to tinned vegetables, had much higher salt levels. Then, the government got involved and targets were set. A typical loaf of bread now has 40% less salt than it did in the 1980s, with about a 10% reduction in just the past three years.

The gradual changes went largely unnoticed by consumers and led to an adjustment in the nation’s palate.

Now, Public Health England says a similar programme for sugar – in products such as biscuits, cakes, puddings, yoghurts, cereals and drinks – along with reductions in portion size, would have positive health benefits.

A 50% reduction in the amount of sugar from these foods would lower sugar intakes for adults from 12% to 9% of energy and for children and teenagers from about 15% to 10%.

Some food and drink companies have already reduced the sugar content of some products in large steps, maintaining sweetness by adding a no- or low-calorie sweetener.

In fact, one of the expanding areas of food manufacturing is alternatives to sugar – there are many natural and artificial alternatives on the market.

One plant, Stevia, is 200 times as sweet with none of the calories. Unheard of four years ago, it is already used in dozens of big brands such as Heinz ketchup and baked beans, Coca Cola Life and Sprite. Often, it is introduced gradually, and buried away deep in the ingredients list.

Olivier Kutz, from Pure Circle, which produces Stevia products, says some brands or manufacturers will list it clearly on the label. “Others choose not to shout about it for various reasons – it could be because it’s an everyday product and they don’t want to confuse consumers,” he says.

Some consumers are wary about artificial sweeteners – aspartame was removed from Diet Pepsi in the US earlier this year after concerns about potential side-effects. Frighten customers

 

And there is another problem with removing sugar from recipes – it causes technical problems.

At Nottingham Trent University, food scientists experiment with baking cakes with different levels of sugar and artificial sweeteners – the results, in terms of taste and appearance, are mixed.

Senior food lecturer Christine Walker says: “Sugar has functions within the recipe, as most things do. Of course it provides sweetness and adds to the pleasant flavour, but it also adds texture to it and it also has a caramelising effect so it browns, so it’s aesthetically pleasing. We eat with our eyes, so if it doesn’t look good, we’re not going to eat it. So it has those things and and if you start to take sugar away from it, those things may well be changed.”

The government report suggests that for some confectionery, portion-size reduction may be an easier way of cutting down on sugar levels.

In the meantime, Ms Walker and her team will keep experimenting. “You can take it out. It’s whether customers will buy it, because that’s the bottom line isn’t it? It’s one of those things, trial and error. But the customer says they want less so we try very hard to do that,” she says.

If obesity is – as the government says – the biggest public health threat facing our children, then we might have to accept the food we buy will have to change. And the companies selling us the stuff may have to work harder to come up with recipes that are not just good for our palette but our waistline too.

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Eating chips in pregnancy can cause underweight babies

Eating chips during pregnancy can lead to significant health problems for new born babies new research suggests.Eating chips in pregnancy can cause underweight babiesConsuming a vast quantity of chips, crisps and biscuits during pregnancy can lead to babies having a lower than average birth weight, the study found.

Mothers-to-be who have a high intake of acrylamide – which is found in commonly consumed foods and coffee – are also more likely to have a baby which has a smaller head circumference.

The size of a child’s head has been associated with delayed neurodevelopment while lower birth weights have been associated with adverse health effects in early life and as children grow up.

Babies born to mothers with a high dietary intake of acrylamide were found to be up to 132 grams lighter than babies born to mothers who had a low intake, researchers said.

The mean birth weight among children who were exposed to the highest levels of acrylamide compared with children in the lowest was around 100 grams, the authors said.

The effect caused by acrylamide is comparable to lower birth weights caused by maternal smoking, they said.

The infant’s heads were also up to 0.33 centimetres smaller, they found.

Acrylamide is a chemical which is produced naturally in food as a result of cooking starch-rich food at high temperatures, such as when baking or frying. It has been found in a wide range of home-cooked and processed foods including crisps, chips, bread and coffee.

“The potential public-health implications of our findings are substantial,” the authors said.

“Reduced birth weight is a risk factor for numerous adverse health effects early in life, and has been associated with multiple adverse outcomes later in life such as reduced stature, increased incidence of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and osteoporosis.”

They added: “These findings provide evidence supporting the need for changes in food production and for providing clear public health advice to pregnant women to reduce their dietary intake of foods that may contain high concentrations of acrylamide.”

Researchers examined the diets of 1,100 pregnant women between 2006 and 2010 in Denmark, England, Greece, Norway and Spain.

The study A comparative analysis of dietary intakes during pregnancy in Europe , led by the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL) in Barcelona, involved 20 research centres across Europe including the Born in Bradford research programme.

Dr Laura Hardie, reader in molecular epidemiology at the University of Leeds, said: “186 women from the Born in Bradford study took part in this major European research programme. We found that their babies had the highest levels of acrylamide out of all of the five centres, almost twice the level of the Danish babies.

“When we investigated their diet it was clear that the largest source of dietary acrylamide is from chips.”

CREAL researcher and lead author Dr Marie Pedersen, added: “The public-health implications of the findings in this study are substantial.

“Reduced birth weight, in particular low birth weight, has been shown to be related to numerous adverse health effects early or later in life such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Furthermore, reduced birth head circumference has been associated with delayed neurodevelopment.”

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Does a high fat diet damage your brain?

Eating a high fat diet can impair the function of the part of the brain that controls appetite and energy expenditure which in turn dictates our weight.Does a high fat diet damage your brain?That is the finding presented at the British Science Festival by scientists at the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute for Nutrition and Health.

This may help explain why overweight people struggle to lose weight and then struggle to maintain their weight loss.

Researchers fed mice a diet high in saturated fat and sugar over 16 weeks – where 60% of their energy came from saturated fat – and compared them with mice fed a normal diet over the same period.

Using techniques such as transcriptomics and proteomics, scientists then studied genes and proteins in the hypothalamus of their brain – the part that regulates eating and energy expenditure.

They found that mice fed a high fat diet had changes to genes and proteins indicative of damage in the hypothalamus and that these changes occurred very rapidly – within weeks.

Dr Lynda Williams, Obesity and Metabolic Health Group Leader, at the Rowett, said: “The hypothalamus is a small area at the base of the brain containing neurones that control the amount of food we eat and the energy we expend.

“However this control breaks down in obesity – the system appears not to work – and we don’t really know why this happens. In our study we found that genes and proteins changed in response to a high fat diet and that these changes are normally associated with damage in the brain, indicating that damage had occurred in the hypothalamus in mice that ate a diet high in saturated fat.

“We instinctively know that eating a diet high in saturated fat and sugar will lead to overweight and obesity. Our results indicate that a high fat diet can damage the areas of the brain that control energy balance and perpetuate the development of obesity. High fat and high sugar foods are energy dense foods which are highly palatable and they are very easy to overeat.”

“Our findings may also explain why some overweight people find it difficult to diet and why weight loss after dieting is so difficult to maintain. We now plan to carry out further studies that will look at whether these effects are reversible.”

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Cheese eaters could reduce diabetes risk

Scientists say that cheese eaters could reduce their chances of developing type two diabetes by 12 per cent.Cheese eaters could reduce diabetes riskWhilst healthy eaters may try to avoid cheese new research suggests it could actually ward off diabetes.

The chance of developing type 2 diabetes, a condition often linked with obesity, could be reduced by around 12 per cent by regularly snacking on cheese, scientists said.

Although high in saturated fat, it may be rich in types of the fat that could be good for the body, they believe.

Fatty foods have long been thought to raise the risks, but uncertainty about the role of dairy products such as milk, butter, cheese and yogurt, has continued.

Most other dairy foods did not have the same beneficial effect as cheese, with the possible exception of yoghurt, the research found.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of the condition and occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin for it to function properly.

Symptoms can be controlled by eating a healthy diet and monitoring your blood glucose level, but sufferers may also need to take insulin medication.

The findings on the effect of cheese The amount and type of dairy product intake and incident type 2 diabetes: results from the EPIC-InterAct Study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, come from one of the largest ever studies to look at the role of diet in health.

One reason why cheese lovers may be at less risk of diabetes could be that the fermentation process triggers some kind of reaction that protects against diabetes and heart problems, the researchers said.

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Mediterranean diet can help women get pregnant

Women wanting to get pregnant should eat a Mediterranean-style diet rich in avocados and olive oil but light in dairy and meat, an IVF conference has heard.Mediterranean diet can help women get pregnantNew research indicates a diet containing lots of monounsaturated fat – found in the fleshy green fruit, olive oil, as well as peanuts, almonds and cashews – can as much as triple the chance of success in women resorting to fertility treatment to conceive.

Specialists believe such a diet could help the majority of women wanting to get pregnant naturally as well.

By contrast eating lots of saturated fat, found in dairy products and red meat, appears to damage women’s fertility. High saturated fat intake has already been linked to lower sperm counts.

Dr Jorge Chavarro and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health in the US, looked at how intake of different types of fats affected success of IVF treatment in 147 women, mostly in their 30s.

They found the women who ate the most monounsaturated fat had up to three times the chance of giving birth via IVF as those who ate the least.

Specifically the top third, who derived on average 25 per cent of their calories from monounsaturated fat, has three times the chance of success compared to the bottom third, who derived on average nine per cent of their calories from it.

However, those who ate the most saturated fat produced two fewer eggs suitable for test-tube fertilisation than those who ate the least – nine compared to 11.

Dr Chavarro said: “As far as the best fat profile is concerned, this is the fat profile that you would find in a Mediterranean diet.”

However, he cautioned that the study was very small and the findings needed to be replicated in larger numbers before firm advice could be issued. Nonetheless, he continued: “Even though we don’t know for sure if it will be of benefit, we do know it won’t be harmful.”

This was because numerous studies had shown Mediterranean-style diets to have a protective effect on health, particularly regarding heart disease.

The Harvard study also looked at the role of polyunsaturated fats, commonly thought to be healthy. They found that – perhaps unexpectedly – women with higher intakes of polyunsaturated fats tended to have lower quality eggs.

But Dr Jorge, a nutritionist and epidemiologist, explained there were different types of polyunsaturated fats – some that could hinder fertility and others that could help.

He said the women in the study tended to eat lots of omega-six polyunsaturates, found in corn and canola oils. He believed omega-three polyunsaturates, found in oily fish like salmon, were not harmful to fertility.

The study, presented at the annual meeting of the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Istanbul, was not big enough to tease out the differences between the two types, he added.

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Red meat and butter could raise Alzheimer’s risk

Eating too much red meat, butter and other foods that contain high levels of saturated fats could increase the risk of Alzheimer’s according to new research.Red meat and butter could raise Alzheimer's riskUS researchers linked to Harvard University found older women who ate lots of food high in saturated fats had worse memories than others.

By contrast, those who ate more monounsaturated fats – found in olive oil, sunflower oil, seeds, nuts and avocados – had better memories.

Dr Oliva Okereke, from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass., which is affiliated to Harvard Medical School, said: “When looking at changes in cognitive function, what we found is that the total amount of fat intake did not really matter, but the type of fat did.”

She and fellow researchers made their conclusions after looking at results from 6,000 women over 65, who carried out a series of mental tests over four years and answered questionnaires about their diet and lifestyle.

Dr Okereke added: “Substituting in the good fat in place of the bad fat is a fairly simple dietary modification that could help prevent decline in memory.”

Having a poor memory can be a harbinger of Alzheimer’s in elderly people, although the former by no means always leads to the latter.

It follows other research showing a link between high cholesterol and a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia.

The report is published in thejournal Annals of Neurology.

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