Happy Friday! Here is another set of 5 nutrition related news and articles from this week that I found interesting. Feel free to share your opinions in the comments section.
New salt reduction targets in UK
The Food Standards Agency of UK (FSA) created quite a stir this week by announcing revised salt reduction targets for the industry to be implemented by 2012. Some 80 categories of foods are being targeted such as bread, meat products, pizza, ready meals and snacks. The goal is to get down to a level of 6 g per day for adults and children over 11 years old, which comes to about 2400 mg of sodium per day. This also happens to be the daily recommended level set by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Most people these days end up consuming far more salt than the maximum daily amount since processed foods and restaurant meals are loaded with salt which I wrote about in last week’s Five for Fridays. Already, the industry is challenging these targets claiming that consumers will not like the taste of many products. Go figure!
Although it is a step in the right direction, I see two problems with this move. First, even if the food industry innovates to deliver great-tasting products with low salt per serving, there is no way to control how many servings of these products people will consume in a day. The best way to control salt intake is to limit, or eliminate, the consumption of processed foods, which is not very practical. I also feel that this will lead to more confusing front-of-the box advertising. The second problem is that this does not address the high salt content of restaurant meals. Finally, I believe that simply regulating the food industry is not enough, there should also be an effort to affect the demand of such products in the first place. It is only when people reject salty products out of a true concern for their long term health that we will see real progress. What do you think?
Genetically modified soybeans with high oleic acid get approval in Canada
Soybean oil is used in large quantities worldwide to prepare food products. One problem is that traditional soybeans contain a lot of unsaturated fat which needs to be hydrogenated to improve its shelf life. Hydorgenation increases the amount of trans fats which is known to increase the risk of heart disease. A new geneticaly modified soybean variety called Hi-bred developed by the DuPont company solves this problem. It contains a lot more oleic acid compared to traditional soybean and as a result, does not require hydrogenation. This week Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspetion Agency have approved this high oleic acid soybean for cultivation and foods containing this soybean oil will hit the market by 2010.
There is a lot of sensitivity around genetically modified crops (GM) especially in Europe and Japan. In North America, the attitude towards GM crops appears to be more pragmatic. So I am not surprised by this news – what is surprising is that the US has not yet approved it even though the FDA reviewed DuPont’s data on GM soybeans way back in 1996. I Soybeans is one of the most important crops worldwide, in US alone the 2006 production was about 90 million metric tons. As a result, the cost of soybean oil is quite low. I am not particularly a big proponent of GM crops, but between trans fats and a GM version deemed safe in a regulatory review, it’s a no-brainer to me.
Link between food allergies and vitamin D deficiency?
The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) seems to think so because a portion of the $1.1 million it is committing to food allergy research is going to fund a project to investigate this link. The rationale behind this is recent work done at the Massachusetts General Hospital that found a link between low levels of vitamin D and increased risk of anaphylaxis (very severe, life threatening allergic response). Another paper by these researchers reported a link between vitamin D and upper respiratory tract infections. How low levels of vitamin D would trigger an allergic response is not well known, so this research could be interesting. I am a little skeptical since I keep hearing about the involvement of vitamin D in a large number of health conditions. The question is if lack of vitamin D is a cause or simply a coincidence that happens to occur with these conditions. My feeling is that there may be other factors and it may not be prudent to focus so much on only vitamin D. In any case, if your child has food allergies, it probably will not hurt to ask your doctor about vitamin D. I would be curious to learn about what you hear as an answer.
Recession has changed consumer shopping behavior at the supermarket
Interesting data from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) in a recent report on Grocery Shopping Trends in 2009 shows that more people are cutting back on eating out, and those who do eat out, are going for fast food instead of upscale dining. At the supermarket , they are selecting private label or store brands instead of branded products. Use of discount coupons is on the rise along with more food shopping at warehouse clubs (Sams, Costco, BJs). More people are cooking at home compared to last year, although this number is still too low in my opinion (only 55%). Price is very important, but so is nutritional value, freshness and locally grown food. I think that this is one good effect of the otherwise horrible recession becuase this change in consumer behavior and attitude will force food producers to think differently and focus on finding the right balance of price and nutritional value. Innovation is bound to happen in such a challenging environment. I am a strong believer of consumer-driven innovation, and I hope that this shift in consumer attitude does not disappear when the economy turns around. How has your food buying behavior changed due to the recession?
What you can do to fight childhood obesity
The problem of childhood obesity is real and we can no longer keep our head buried in the sand. 1 in every 5 child is now considered obese, which means that we have a big healthcare nightmare waiting to unfold if we don’t do anything about it. Here is a post that really got my attention, not only because it provides all the facts, but also because it offers several good ideas on how you can get encourage your kids to get a healthy life and stay on track to fight childhood obesity. My favorite tip – Replace “trash ’em foods”; get your kids to throw sugary, salty, fatty junk foods and beverages in the trash and replace them with healthy options like fruits, nuts, yogurt and low fat milk. Snacks and sugary drinks are a big problem, but there is a way to let your kids enjoy snacks the smart way. What are your favorite tips?
Enjoy your weekend!
Photo source – tanakawho on Flickr