Earl Grey tea or statins for heart disease?

The English tradition of afternoon tea might be more beneficial to your health than you realise – but only if it’s Earl Grey! A new study published in the Journal of Functional Foods has found that a group of enzymes within bergamot (Citrus bergamia) fruit, is as effective as  statins for reducing cholesterol in a rat model. It’s good news for Earl Grey tea lovers as bergamot is what gives the tea its unique fragrant taste. The enzymes, known as 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl flavanones (HMGF), are effective at reducing total cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins (LDL – ‘bad’ cholesterol) and triglycerides, as well as increasing the high-density lipoproteins (HDL – ‘good’ cholesterol). Not only may it be good for your heart, bergamot juice also has been found to have both anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Putin vows to protect Russian citizens from GM

In a meeting with members of the Board of the Russian Federation Council Vladimir Putin stressed that Russian citizens must be protected from the use of foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs); products that he described as ‘substandard’. Remembering that there was a bill to ban the import of GMOs, a senator attending the meeting asked that the President take control of the problem. Putin said, “We can do it, should do it and will do it,” assuring that Russia “…..will move in the direction of protecting [their] citizens.”

US FDA considering backroom deal over mandatory GMO labeling

Once again US citizens are forced to stand up for their rights as the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has been handed a draft bill by the food industry that would limit their ability to require mandatory labelling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food ingredients. Even in the face of over 90% of US consumers demanding mandatory labelling for GMOs, Big Food want to cut a backroom deal with Congress and the FDA, which, unsurprisingly, flies in the face of consumer wishes. Take action and say NO to the FDA ruling against mandatory labelling laws at both the state and federal levels.

EFSA publish further guidance on assessing botanicals

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have just published further guidance on assessing the safety of botanicals — entitled Scientific Opinion on a Qualified Presumption of Safety (QPS) approach for the safety assessment of botanicals and botanical preparations. EFSA’s summary states that: “Using the principles to establish the suitability of a botanical preparation for QPS status, it has been possible to develop a structured assessment scheme that provides a practical method for assessing botanicals and botanical preparations for which an adequate body of knowledge exists and therefore without the need for further testing”. This means that a QPS status can be arrived at for specific groupings where there are related botanicals or different botanical preparations are obtained from the same plant variety. The guidance is to be used in addition to the 2009 EFSA guidance for the safety assessment of botanicals and botanical preparations intended to be used in food supplements. We wrote a feature about this in 2012, entitled EFSA’s mission creep — new challenges ahead for herbs.

Fruit juice is as bad as coke

Dr Francine Kaufman, director of the diabetes clinic at the Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles, and a past president of the American Diabetes Association, has recently been quoted as saying “….fruit juice is really one of the worst things. You might as well drink Coke.” The article talks about diet and exercise, and their effect on the rise of type 2 diabetes and also the role that drinking sugar plays in this. While she admits that blaming sugar entirely isn’t the way forward, she advises that reducing added sugars in foods and drinks is key. What is often overlooked, is that fruit, albeit natural and full of healthy phytonutrients, also contains sugars. Juicing fruit concentrates the liquid portion, requiring many more fruits are used than one would typically eat in one sitting and rendering it a very high glycaemic load product.  Sugar is sugar when it comes to type 2 diabetes risk, whether it comes from a can of coke or a bottle of fruit juice!

Diet drinks in the frame for heart disease

Research presented at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) Annual Scientific Session has demonstrated a link between postmenopausal women who drink more than one or two cans of diet drinks and increased risk of cardiovascular events. With  30% more likely to suffer from a cardiovascular event, and 50% more likely to die from related cardiovascular disease. This was compared to women who never, or very seldom drank diet drinks in an extensive study of almost 60,000 women. Aspartame, one of the common artificial sweeteners used in diet beverages, is not popular with an increasing number of consumers, but is still staunchly defended as safe by regulators, including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Lead investigator, Dr. Ankur Vyas, points out that although they only found an association and therefore cannot say definitively that diet drinks cause these problems, the findings definitely call for further research — and possibly avoidance of diet soda.

Five-a-day should be seven-a-day for a longer, healthier life

New in the UK press this week is the advice that we should all increase our fruit and vegetable intake to 7 or more portions a day in order to live a longer, healthier life and reduce our chances of death from heart disease, stroke and cancer.  The study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health analysed data from more than 65,000 randomly selected people aged 35 and over and the results were conclusive — in the case of fruit and vegetables, more is better. Those who ate at least seven portions a day had a 42% lower risk of death from all causes. The study also found that although the benefits gained extend to dried fruit, not much is gained from frozen or tinned. Lead author, Dr. Oyinlola Oyebode, is keen for the UK Department of Health to reassess its current advice of five-a-day.

Mexican study shows daily probiotics improves children’s immunity

The results of a new randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of probiotics used in children have just been published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The researchers found that, in healthy children attending a day care centre in Mexico, a daily dose of the probiotic: Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 “had a significant effect in reducing episodes and duration of diarrhea and respiratory tract infection, with consequent cost savings for the community”. The children’s ages ranged from 6- to 36-months, and they received the probiotic supplements for 3-months, after which they were followed up for a further 3-months. The researchers also found that “the number of doctor visits, antibiotic use, absenteeism from day school and parental absenteeism from work were significantly reduced in the L reuteri group”.


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