Archive For The “Health” Category

New Study Explores Beneficial Affects of Blueberries

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The equivalent of one cup of fresh blueberries, given as 22 g of freeze-dried blueberries, may beneficially affect areas of health in overweight men with type 2 diabetes, according to new research study.

The double-blind study was conducted at the Stratton Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Albany, New York. It found that intake of the equivalent of one U.S. cup of fresh blueberries (given as 22 g freeze-dried blueberries) resulted in clinically significant improvements in measurable indicators of type 2 diabetes – Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) and fructosamine – compared to a placebo.

These indicators represent two ways to measure glycemic control in those living with diabetes. First, measuring HbA1c levels provides insight into long-term glycemic control, with the ability to reflect the cumulative glucose level history of the preceding two-to-three months. Testing fructosamine levels provides information on average blood glucose levels over a two-to-three-week time period.

The results also showed significantly decreased levels of serum triglycerides after blueberry consumption compared to placebo. Left untreated or uncontrolled, elevated blood triglyceride levels may increase the risk of serious complications such as cardiovascular disease – the leading cause of morbidity and mortality for individuals with diabetes.

“To date few human clinical trials have evaluated the potential beneficial health effects of blueberries in populations with type 2 diabetes,” said Kim Stote, Ph.D, MPH, RDN, who has a research appointment at the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center, and is the study’s lead investigator.

“While the results cannot be generalized to all populations, the evidence that a dietary intervention with a realistic serving of blueberries may be an effective strategy to improve metabolic factors associated with type 2 diabetes.”

Over an eight-week period, researchers studied 52 overweight male participants between the ages of 51 and 75 who had a medical diagnosis of type 2 diabetes for at least six months as indicated by hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) > 6.5 and < 9 and BMI > 25 kg/m2. During the study, non-insulin diabetes medications were prescribed to 100% of the participants.

Other inclusion criteria for subjects included no insulin use and no heavy exercise. Participants were randomly assigned one of two interventions: either 1) 22 g of freeze-dried blueberries (the equivalent of one U.S. cup/d fresh blueberries) along with their regular diet or 2) 22 g of a placebo powder (matched in energy and carbohydrate content to the freezedried blueberries) along with their regular diet.

Of note, fiber was not controlled in the study, which is known to influence glycemic response. Fasting plasma glucose and serum insulin were not significantly different after eight weeks of consumption of freeze-dried blueberries, compared with placebo.

Total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, CRP concentrations, blood pressure and body weight were not significantly different after eight weeks of consumption of freezedried blueberries, compared with the placebo.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 34 million Americans have diabetes (about 1 in 10). Approximately 90-95% of them have type 2 diabetes, which occurs when insulin is made by the pancreas, but the body’s cells gradually lose the ability to absorb and use the insulin. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is increasing in the U.S. population due to aging, physical inactivity, being overweight and obesity status, all of which are serious risk factors.

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Strawberries Improve Heart Health in Male Teens, Study Says

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Teen age boys who are at higher risk for heart disease than their peers may benefit from eating a lot of strawberries, according to a recent small study. 

“The literature to date strongly supports the concept that the regular consumption of strawberries can be associated with improvements in cardiovascular health,” according to a University of California-Davis news release.

The study by UC-Davis researcherss Roberta Holt, Carl Keen and others, “Effects of short-term consumption of strawberry powder on select parameters of vascular health in adolescent males,” was published in the Food & Function journal. The study is the result of the 2019 Berry Health Benefits Symposium.

The goal of the study is to better inform dietary recommendations about the amount and frequency of strawberry intake to support cardiovascular health at each life stage.

The research team prioritized teenagers for their study because heart disease risk can begin in childhood. 

The study used only 25 teens, recording results an hour after consumption and again a week later. More studies, especially longer-term studies, are needed in a variety of populations because many factors influence how polyphenols in strawberries affect the heart, according to the release.

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California Strawberry Commission Issues an Open Letter

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During the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic, the food supply chain has been called upon to create stability for the country. As the largest agricultural employer in the country, California strawberry farms were among the first to implement CDC guidance. Strawberry farms are committed to protecting farm worker health, maintaining farm jobs and harvesting every box for American consumers.

For consumers, strawberries have a special role, as one of the top two fruits designated as high in vitamin C. During the spring (April 15-June 1) strawberries are the second most consumed, high in vitamin C, fresh fruit, after oranges.

Now, strawberry supplies are threatened by the COVID-19 peak in April and downward trend into May – which has already brought food service to a standstill and stores to regulate consumer access.

Perishable items will be most affected by the COVID-19 peak, especially crops such as berries that will be in full production during the same period of April through May. Blueberry farms in Florida, Georgia, and California, as well as California strawberry farms project more than 30% of the crop will be disrupted – threatening the loss of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars. For comparison, fresh strawberry retail sales were over $953 million during the 13 weeks ending June 16, 2019.

Our options are few: leave the crop to rot in the field or pick every box and have faith in our supply chain partners to get this important source of vitamins and nutrients into the hands of consumers, through supermarkets, food banks, online, and every other channel available.

Our choice is clear – harvest every box. We have asked the US Department of Agriculture for assistance and call upon every link in the supply chain to restock shelves and help us preserve over 70,000 jobs related to delivering healthy, nutritious strawberries to consumers, and for all to stay safe.

Sincerely,

Hector Gutierrez, Farmer & Chairman
Rick Tomlinson, President

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CU Research Finds Cash Can Help Stressed-Out People Eat More Produce

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By Sarah Kuta

At the end of a long day, it’s tempting to order a large pizza or grab a drive-through cheeseburger for dinner. But, if offered cash, you might be persuaded to eat fruits and vegetables instead (or at least add them as a side dish).

That’s what researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found to be true when they studied the effects of stress and incentives on fruit and vegetable consumption. The results of their study, titled “Stress and number of servings of fruit and vegetables consumed: Buffering effects of monetary incentives,” were published in October in the Journal of Health Psychology.

These results are an important contribution to the growing body of literature about the psychology of incentives and other public health topics. More broadly, the findings support the implementation of health programs that incorporate incentives—for example, companies that offer lower health insurance premiums for employees who exercise or visit the doctor for preventative care.

“What we know is that people tend to eat less healthy when they are stressed,” said Angela Bryan, professor of psychology and neuroscience and one of the study’s co-authors. “We wondered if we associated a more positive thing with healthy behaviors, is there any way we might be able to offset that stress effect? So, if you see a carrot less as something like, ‘Ugh, gosh, I have to eat a carrot’ and more, ‘I get paid to eat a carrot,’ does that mitigate the effects of stress on healthy eating?”

To get an answer to those questions, Bryan and graduate students Casey Gardiner and Sarah Hagerty asked a group of 128 participants to record their stress levels and the number of fruit and vegetable servings they ate each day for three weeks. Some study participants got paid $1 for each serving of fruits and vegetables they ate, up to $5 per day, while other participants received no incentive.

The experiment confirmed that people ate fewer servings of fruits and vegetables on days when they reported feeling stressed. But, notably, participants who received cash incentives maintained their daily fruit and vegetable consumption, even when stressed.

The incentives, in essence, shielded the participants from the negative effect stress would typically have on their diets. Even the researchers were surprised at the clear link between cash, food choices and stress.

“Obviously, we had the hypothesis that incentives might buffer the effects of stress and diet, but I didn’t think it would be this clear,” said Bryan. “I thought there might be a glimmer of something going on, so when we actually saw the effects and the size of the effects, I was pretty stunned.”

The researchers noted in their paper that future studies might improve upon their design by using a more objective measurement method, rather than having participants self-report. Future research might also track participants over a longer period of time to measure whether—and for how long—they kept up the healthy behaviors.

On a more personal level, the findings suggest that we should find ways to reward ourselves for making healthy choices—watching TV as a reward for eating fruits and vegetables, for example. 

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Walnut Consumption Linked to Health, Longevity in Women, Study Concludes

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FOLSOM, Calif. — According to a new epidemiological study, women in their late 50s and early 60s who consumed at least two servings of walnuts per week had a greater likelihood of healthy aging compared to those who did not eat walnuts. After accounting for various factors that could impact health in older adults, such as education and physical activity, walnuts were the only nut associated with significantly better odds of healthy aging.

In this study, which was supported by the California Walnut Commission, “healthy aging” was defined as longevity with sound mental health and no major chronic diseases, cognitive issues or physical impairments following the age of 65. Researchers found a significant association between total nut consumption (including walnuts, peanuts and other nuts) and healthy aging, but the link was particularly robust for walnuts.

By 2034, for the first time ever, older adults will outnumber children. Baby boomers (those 65 and older) are expected to make up 21 percent of the population, with more than half being women. The significance of this demographic turning point in our country’s history is clear – research that examines the aging process, including simple, low-cost interventions like healthy food choices, will be especially crucial to healthier lifespans.

Previous research from primary investigator Dr. Francine Grodstein, formerly of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has found that eating walnuts may have a positive impact on reducing the risk for physical impairments in older adults as well as cognitive decline. Additionally, others in the same research group have found decreases in cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes – all conditions that become more common as we age. There is no one solution to slowing down the effects of aging, but adopting the right habits, like snacking on a handful of walnuts, can help.

In this study, Grodstein looked at data from 33,931 women in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) to evaluate the association between nut consumption and overall health and well-being in aging. Between 1998-2002, female nurses in the NHS were asked about their diet (including total nut consumption); evaluated for chronic diseases (such as cancer, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease); and assessed for memory concerns, mental health and physical limitations (including daily activities like walking one block, climbing a flight of stairs, bathing, dressing oneself and pushing a vacuum cleaner). Of the study participants, 16% were found to be “healthy agers,” defined as having no major chronic diseases, reported memory impairment or physical disabilities as well as having intact mental health.

Although previous research has connected a healthy diet, including walnuts, to better physical function among older men and women, this study only included women. More research is needed to understand if these results hold true among men. Additionally, participants were not assigned to eat walnuts or other foods; they were simply asked about their dietary choices. It is possible that subjects misreported their dietary intake since this information was collected by questionnaires. As an observational study, this does not prove cause and effect. However, this research sheds light on simple habits that can influence health during later years in life – such as eating walnuts.

The California Walnut Commission (CWC) supported this research. The CWC has supported health-related research on walnuts for more than 30 years with the intent to provide knowledge and understanding of the unique health benefits associated with consuming walnuts. While the CWC does provide funds and/or walnuts for various projects, all studies are conducted independently by researchers who design the experiments, interpret the results and present evidence-based conclusions. The CWC is committed to scientific integrity of industry-funded research.

The California walnut industry is made up of over 4,800 growers and more than 90 handlers (processors). The growers and handlers are represented by two entities, the California Walnut Board (CWB) and the California Walnut Commission (CWC).

California Walnut Commission
The California Walnut Commission, established in 1987, is funded by mandatory assessments of the growers. The CWC represents over 4,800 growers and approximately 90 handlers (processors) of California walnuts in export market development activities and conducts health research. The CWC is an agency of the State of California that works in concurrence with the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).

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New Study Indicates Strawberries may Reduce Alzheimer’s Dementia Risk

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The risk of having Alzheimer’s dementia in older adults may be reduced by eating more strawberries, according to researchers at Rush University, Chicago.

A team led by Puja Agarwal analyzed data collected from 295 people — ages 58 to 98 and dementia-free at the start of the study — using food questionnaires and neurological evaluations as part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project between 2004 and 2018, according to a news release.

The association between frequent strawberry consumption and decreased Alzheimer’s dementia emerged and information on the link was published in the December 2019 issue of Nutrients. 

Researchers said there is a potential link between disease symptoms and more oxidative stress and inflammation. Strawberries appear to have anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, possibly due to high content of flavonoids and vitamin C. Also, animal studies have shown strawberries improve neuronal function, cognition and some motor outcomes, according to the release. 

Strawberry intake ranged from zero to two servings a week in the Rush study. Researcher found for every single serving increase in strawberry consumption, there was a 24 percent reduced risk of Alzheimer’s dementia. 

Overall, participants eating one or more servings of strawberries per week had a 34 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s dementia when compared to those consuming none or less than once per month.

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Research: Higher Nut Consumption May Help Prevent Cognitive Decline in the Elderly

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REUS, Spain — A recent INC-funded study, published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, showed that a high intake of nuts may help protect the elderly from cognitive decline.

A team of researchers examined whether a diet high in nuts might help protect against age-related cognitive decline over a three-year period.

A total of 119 participants aged 65 and over with dementia were selected from the InCHIANTI cohort, a representative population-based study of elderly residents of Chianti, Italy. Participants were selected based on their nut intake: non-nut consumers and regular nut consumers (2.9 g/day).

Nut exposure was measured at the beginning of the study with a validated food frequency questionnaire or with an analytical tool for the characterization of phenolic compounds. In addition, cognitive decline was measured using the Mini-Mental State Examination test.

Researchers found that, from 119 subjects, 38 participants experienced cognitive decline, 28 from the non-nut consumers group and 10 from the nut consumers group. Nut consumption estimated either by the dietary marker or by the urinary marker model was in both cases associated with lower cognitive decline.

“The use of a panel of metabolites provides accurate and complementary information on nut exposure and reinforces the results obtained using dietary information,” states Prof. Andrés-Lacueva, ICREA Academia at the University of Barcelona, Group leader of CIBERFES on Frailty and Healthy Aging and principal investigator of the study.

The study was supported by the INC.

About the International Nut & Dried Fruit Council

The INC is the international umbrella organization for the nut and dried fruit industry. Its members include more than 800 nut and dried fruit sector companies from over 80 countries. INC membership represents over 85 percent of the world’s commercial “farm gate” value of trade in nuts and dried fruit. The INC’s mission is to stimulate and facilitate sustainable growth in the global nut and dried fruit industry. It is the leading international organization on health, nutrition, statistics, food safety, and international standards and regulations regarding nuts and dried fruit.

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Take Care by Stocking Up on Immune-Boosting Fruits and Vegetables

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Grower-Shipper Association of Central California

This pandemic is a learning experience for all of us on how to stay healthy and avoid illness.

Making informed decisions around COVID-19 is critically important. Taking the responsible route of practicing good hygiene and limiting social contact are sound practices we all must take seriously. 

What will help our body’s vital line of defense to an invading virus? A good diet, with lots of dark green, leafy vegetables and berries. When going to the grocery store or shopping online don’t forget to prioritize healthy foods that maintain a strong immune system and gut health.  But don’t just take our word for it. Listen to the advice from the experts, such as Elizabeth Bradley, MD, a clinical nutritionist and the medical director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, who in a recent article, Facts (and Myths) About Boosting Your Immune System, highlights how diet plays a role in supporting the immune system.

Fresh fruits and veggies are going to support your immune system and gut health through this challenging time. So, for your next delivered grocery store order or on your next trip to your neighborhood market, remember to stock up on fresh produce to keep your immune system strong and healthy.

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Consuming Fruits and Vegetables and the Corona Virus

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Modern supermarkets with their many open displays of fruits and vegetables are truly a marvel and a reminder that our nation enjoys the safest and most abundant food supply in the world. However, in the face of the current nationwide COVID-19 outbreak, many questions about the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables have arisen.

According to Amanda Deering, an Extension specialist in Purdue’s Department of Food Science, current research indicates that the virus is not foodborne or food-transmitted. 

“From all indications, the virus that causes COVID-19 appears to be transmitted just like other viruses,” Deering said. “This is very positive in that the same practices that we normally use to reduce contamination risk, such as washing your hands and washing fruit and vegetables before eating, should be applicable to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.”

Scott Monroe, Purdue Extension food safety educator, points out that many produce growers already incorporate good agricultural practice that reduce the risk of contamination by a human pathogen. 

“While viruses may be transmitted from surfaces, most growers take steps to prevent contamination. At this point in time, fear of COVID-19 should not be a reason to stop purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables,” he said.

 Although the risk is small that any individual would contract COVID-19 from selecting fresh produce, Deering and Monroe recommend the following steps to further reduce the risk:

  • Frequent hand-washing effectively reduces risk. After a trip to the supermarket, make sure to wash your hands, especially if tongs or other shared utensils are used.
  • Try not to manipulate produce items. While part of the buying experience is feeling, touching and manipulating the produce, this may increase the probability of a pathogen being deposited on or acquired from the produce.
  • Consumers who are immunocompromised should consider purchasing pre-packaged fruits and vegetables as an added measure of caution or choose to eat cooked fruits and vegetables at this time.
  • All produce items should be washed thoroughly before consumption.

The incorporation of fresh fruits and vegetables into one’s diet has consistently been shown to increase overall health, including the immune system. Staying healthy increases the body’s ability to fight infections. By taking a few common-sense precautions, such as frequent hand-washing and washing of produce, consumers can continue to reap the health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables without incurring excessive risk of acquiring COVID-19.

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Power of 3 Campaign Touts California Walnuts Nutrition

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A new global marketing campaign by The California Walnut Commission of Folsom, CA creates The Power of 3, that has a simple message: three handfuls of walnuts a week can help improve nutrition.

The campaign focuses on walnut’s essential fatty acid, omega-3 ALA, and asks consumers to share the nut’s health message with three others through February, which is American Heart Month. It’s the first campaign of its scale for walnuts, according to a news release, with promotions in the U.S., Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.

Consumers in each country will be directed to a global landing page on the commission’s website, https://walnuts.org/power-of-3/.

Digital and social media content, a sweepstakes, recipes and snack ideas, pop-up events, samplings and more will be used to spread the nutrition campaign, according to the release.

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