FOOD BITES: OCTOBER 2017

U.S. Obesity Rates Begin to Level

After years of increasing, adult obesity rates remained stable in 45 states from 2015 to 2016, according to a new report from the Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit health advocacy organization, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropic organization that funds health research.

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FOOD BITES: SEPTEMBER 2017

Tomatoes No Longer Considered ‘Poison Apples’

Originating in Mesoamerica, tomatoes were part of the Aztecs’ diet as early as 700 A.D., but they weren’t grown in Britain until the 1590s. First arriving in southern Europe in the early 16th century via Spanish conquistadors returning from Mesoamerica, the tomato was considered a “poison apple”

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FOOD BITES: DECEMBER 2017

Milk Proteins Make Edible  Wrapping

To create an all-around better packaging solution, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is developing environmentally friendly film made of the milk protein casein to wrap meats, cheese and other food items. “The protein-based films are powerful oxygen blockers that help prevent food spoilage,”

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FOOD BITES: AUGUST 2017

Lead Found in Baby Food

Detectable levels of lead were found in 20 percent of 2,164 baby food samples. Analyzing 11 years of federal data, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) found the toxic metal most commonly in fruit juices, root vegetables and teething biscuits and cookies. The organization focused on baby foods because lead can be detrimental to child development; even low levels of lead exposure can cause neurocognitive impairments and problems with attention, behavior, cognitive development and the cardiovascular and immune systems. Although the lead levels were relatively low, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no safe lead level for children. Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft report estimating more than 5 percent of children consume more than 6 micrograms of lead a day – the maximum daily intake limit set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993. The EPA report reveals food is the major source of lead exposure in two-thirds of toddlers. This inspired Tom Neltner, the EDF’s chemicals policy director, to examine data from the FDA’s Total Diet Study to find the food sources for the lead. Neltner found baby food varieties of apple juice, grape juice and carrots had detectable lead more often than regular varieties. He suspects processing plays a role in the contamination.

FDA and Aphrodisiacs

There is only one known aphrodisiac, and a few things can factor into its effectiveness. In addition to a placebo effect, some foods may help promote “sexy time” due to visual stimuli or status associated with them. Oysters have zinc, which can increase testosterone, but they’re no aphrodisiac. Chocolate increases serotonin but not the libido. Spanish fly, made from ground-up blister beetles, can cause an erection and urethra irritation. Eastern and Native American herbs are neither effective nor safe. Not even Viagra is a libido stimulant; it just causes erections. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) says there is no aphrodisiac and labeling anything as such is false advertising. The one and only aphrodisiac is the mind. Dancing is rare in the animal world because it is spontaneous, but humans are the lords of dance. Species that utilize vocal imitation, such as some parrots, cockatoos, California sea lions and Asian elephants, can learn to dance; all have been observed moving in rhythm to a beat. When people synchronize their motions through dancing, it raises endorphins and encourages social closeness. A study published in PLOS Genetics found two genes associated with creative dancing and linked them with the need for social communication.

Why Can Some People Tolerate Spicy Foods Better?

Scientists don’t know for sure why some people can tolerate spicy foods better than others, but three factors may be in play here. Some people may be born with less sensitivity to spiciness. Spiciness is detected by a sensory receptor called TRPV1, a little protein that opens up when molecules like capsaicin bind to it. Gene sequences that produce the TRPV1 protein vary from person to person, so certain versions of the receptor are more or less responsive than others. It may also matter how much a person uses his or her TRPV1 receptors. Researchers have documented a desensitizing effect that happens when someone eats a lot of capsaicin; the person must eat higher levels of it in order to taste a certain degree of spiciness. As people eat spicy food more regularly, they start to feel less of the burn. And lastly, some people may just like the burn.

ANGELA S. HOOVER

Angela is a staff writer for Health & Wellness magazine.

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