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NAS Report on Eating and Exercise


Cleaner Beef?


Neotame: A New Sweetener



NAS Report in Eating and Exercise

The newest report on healthy eating from the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine recommends that adults should get 45% to 65% of their calories from carbohydrates, 20% to 35% from fat, and 10% to 35% from protein to meet the body's daily energy and nutritional needs while minimizing risk for chronic disease. Chaired by Joanne Lupton, Professor of Nutrition, Texas A&M University, College Station, the report, Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids, also advises that adults and children spend at least 1 hour each day in moderately intense exercise to maintain cardiovascular health. This is twice the daily physical activity goal set by the 1996 Surgeon General's report. The recommended ranges for carbohydrate, fat, and protein are flexible to help dietary planning. The new acceptable ranges for children are similar to those for adults, except that infants and younger children need 25% to 40% of their caloric intake from fat. The new guidelines, which also address the issues of sugars, fiber, and different dietary fats, build on the data that have emerged since the publication of the Recommended Dietary Allowances in 1989 and the Canadian Recommended Nutrient Intakes in 1990. Read the full text of the report free online ( or purchase copies from the National Academy Press (telephone: 800-624-6242; Web:


Cleaner Beef?

Some meat packers in Colorado and Texas are trying a new technique for beef sanitation: the "rinse-and-chill" slaughter process developed by MPSC Inc of St. Paul, Minn, in which a cold sugar-and-salt solution is injected into the carotid arteries of freshly slaughtered cattle or bison. Proponents claim it makes beef cleaner by washing out more blood (a prime host for bacteria) than traditional slaughtering methods, cools the carcass faster, and lowers pH, further inhibiting bacterial growth. US Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors allow the method but say it's too soon to comment on its claims. The rinse-and-chill method is too time-consuming and expensive to be feasible for high-speed meat packers. Whether this method will affect the nutrient content of the beef is also unanswered. (Denver Post. June 10, 2002)


Neotame: A New Sweetener

In July 2002, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Neotame, a new sweetener manufactured by the NutraSweet Company. Neotame will carry no health warning on its label, and the FDA states that no special labeling is necessary for individuals with phenylketonuria.


Alleged to be 7000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar, the product can be used in baked goods, chewing gum, soda, jams, jellies, and other foods. "So little is needed, and when the dose is so low, any potential toxicity is low," said Alan Rulis, Director of the FDA's Office of Food Additive Safety, after the agency reviewed more than 113 animal and human studies.


Food-borne Illness Down

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently noted a 23% overall decrease in 7 bacterial food-borne illnesses since 1996. "These data demonstrate that we are on the right track," says USDA Secretary Ann M. Veneman. The CDC credits the decline to a combination of factors, including tighter food and inspection regulations, food safety education, and better agricultural practices.


However, as we all know, even safe foods prepared in a dirty kitchen can lead to food-borne illness. As the holidays approach, food preparation time is rushed and more guests come to dinner, so please take special care to maintain food safety in the kitchen! Some commonsense tips include:


* Don't taste-test raw food


* Use a meat thermometer, even if you don't believe you need it


* Wash the kitchen floor regularly


* Keep pets out of the kitchen when you cook


* Feeling ill? Let someone else do the cooking!



New Standards for Organic Foods

Starting October 21, 2002, shoppers can identify foods that meet the USDA's new "National Organic Standards." Packaging will carry a green-and-white USDA logo, and foods with "organic" claims must conform to the following guidelines to call themselves:


* "100% organic"-products exclusively produced using organic ingredients;


* "Organic"-95% of the ingredients by weight (excluding water and salt) in a processed product must have been organically produced. The remaining 5% must be natural or synthetic ingredients allowed by the Organic Standards Board.


* "Made with organic"-products with at least 70% organic ingredients; specific organic ingredients must be listed.



Products with less than 70% organic ingredients will simply list the organic items in the ingredients panel on the side of the package but will not carry the USDA logo.


Are organic foods really lower in pesticides than conventionally grown produce? Yes, says Consumer Reports in its August 2002 issue, despite the long-recognized problems of pesticide spraying that may "drift" across farmlands devoted to organic produce, and the persistence of long-banned pesticides in some soils. Four scientists from Consumer Union collaborated with the Organic Materials Review Institute in Eugene, Ore, to compare multiyear surveys and concluded that 73% of conventionally grown produce, but only 23% of organic produce, contains at least one pesticide. Conventionally grown crops are 6 times more likely than organic crops to have traces of several pesticides. To read more, visit Washing produce and/or removing peels and stems before cooking can effectively reduce pesticide residue.


The Acrylamide Quandary

Earlier this year national food administrations of Sweden, Britain, Norway, and Switzerland independently reported high acrylamide levels in fried starchy foods, sparking debate throughout the world. Acrylamide is a chemical and a potential carcinogen that has long been used in manufacturing plastics and adhesives: so what is it doing in food and should we worry? Little is known about how the cooking process leads to this natural acrylamide formation, but it is related to the effect of high-temperature deep-fat cooking of carbohydrates. Large doses of acrylamide can cause neural damage in humans, but it is a proven carcinogen only in rats. Foods with the highest acrylamide levels include French fries, potato chips, and crispy breads. The World Health Organization (WHO) advises consumers to moderate fried food intake; the FDA is unwilling to issue specific warnings without clearer evidence of risk. The debate continues.


The Biotech Blockade

International food aid agencies, meeting in South Africa in late August 2002, debated on the crisis that started in July when Zimbabwe refused tons of donated genetically modified (GM) corn, even though its population was starving. One of several countries in Southern Africa facing severe famine, Zimbabwe refused the grain, arguing unknown health implications of biotech food and, more importantly, the rights of farmers to protect their own corn suited to local ecosystems from potential cross-pollination if the GM corn were planted. Although current studies argue that GM food is perfectly safe for consumption (, the cross-pollination risk is real. Although the nation finally agreed to receive the grain if it is milled first, officials in nearby Zambia refused it outright, saying they would rather let citizens die. Neighboring countries such as Mozambique face the same dilemma of protecting their trade rights in the face of complex political and food distribution issues. "The most important thing right now is to provide food aid," said Sidi Diawara of Oxfam. "But countries must have the choice. To force them to eat what they normally would not eat . . . is inhuman." The controversy-and the starvation-rages on. (Associated Press. September 3, 2002)


About Those Eight Glasses a Day . . .

Of water, that is. Do we need them? The old adage to drink 2 quarts of water a day-in addition to other beverages-is finally getting, well, the bucket, according to Dr Heinz Valtin, Professor Emeritus at Dartmouth Medical School, whose review appeared in the September 2002 American Journal of Physiology. We get our necessary water from the food we eat, Valtin concludes. Even dry bread and cheese are 35% water, notes Dr Barbara Rolls, a Pennsylvania State University nutritionist and well-known expert on thirst. The advice to drink 8 glasses a day grew, Valtin finds, from a muddled interpretation of a 1945 Food and Nutrition Board report that found the healthy body needs 1 mL of water for each calorie consumed (about 8 cups for 2,000 calories), but the report itself said "most of this is contained in prepared foods." The Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board is currently revisiting the issue and hopes to decide by March 2003 whether a new guideline is needed. In the meantime, experts advise: obey your thirst, get your water in healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables; if you have dry skin, seal in moisture with daily moisturizers; and check the color of your urine: if it is clear or pale yellow, you're well hydrated.