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2003 Heart and Stroke Statistics


Genetically Engineered Crops Declared Safe by the French


FDA Consumer Health Initiative



Diet Counseling Works!

We told you so long ago, but it is gratifying that the US Preventive Services Taskforce agrees! The task force recently announced that intensive diet counseling can indeed help at-risk adults improve diet-related behaviors, such as eating more fruit and vegetables, when provided by either physicians or other clinicians. The taskforce recommends that dietary counseling be provided to all adults with diet-related chronic disease. The recommendations relate to patients who are at risk for chronic diseases and not the general population. For more information, see the January issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine or go to (Health Behavior News Service 1/2/03)


Is Home Cooking Also Suffering From Portion Distortion?

It may be a case of monkey see, monkey do, but our at-home meals also are getting larger, as is happening in restaurants and fast-food places, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Although a direct link with obesity cannot be drawn, it does tell us that we, as a nation, are eating more, and, coupled with our tendency for less exercise, it does not bode well. (On the Pulse 1-24)


Aspartame Safe

The Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) of the European Commission has reaffirmed the safety of aspartame and maintained the current acceptable daily intake (ADI). SCF's conclusions, reaffirm previous reviews by the SCF, the US Food and Drug Administration, the Joint FAO/WHO Committee on Food Additives, and other regulatory bodies and expert committees.


2003 Heart and Stroke Statistics Released

The American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association have released the 2003 updated Heart and Stroke Statistics. Based on the 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) findings, the study highlights statistics on obesity in children. More than 15% of children aged 6 to 19 years are considered overweight or obese. The entire report is available at>.


Effect of Food Fortification With Folate Greater Than Expected

Using linear regression analysis of data, nutrition researchers Eoin Quinlivan and Jesse F. Gregory, III, showed that folic acid intakes from fortified foods had increased 215 to 240 [mu]g /d, nearly double the amount expected when the fortification program was begun in January 1998.


Folic acid deficiency can cause neural tube defects in the developing fetus, prompting the FDA to mandate fortification of cereal-grain foods with folate. Although still significantly below the 1000 [mu]g/d considered the safe upper limit of daily intake, the results of this study have implications for the use of additional fortification. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2003;77:1:221-225).


Thin and Long-lived

FIRKO (fat-specific insulin receptor knock-outs) mice have 50% to 70% less fat, no matter what they eat, and live 18% longer than normal mice. Scientists changed a single gene in the mice, called fat specific insulin receptor. In mice without this gene, the insulin effect on fat cells is effectively reduced. Although an exact cause for the mice's longevity is not known, scientists speculate that if an animal eats less, the body produces fewer free radicals from food metabolism that can damage cell structure.


Whether this also pertains to humans is yet to be seen, but some scientists believe it may be possible to engineer a drug that would turn off this gene in humans, rendering us all svelte and long in the tooth. (Reuters 2/2/2003)


Genetically Engineered Crops Declared Safe by the French

Frances's venerable Academy of Science recently pronounced genetically engineered (GM) crops as safe for human consumption. The report also encouraged the European Union to follow suit and lift its moratorium on biotech foods.


FDA Announces Consumer Health Initiative

In an effort to provide consumers with the information they need to make sound nutritional decisions, a new Food and Drug Administration Consumer Health Information Initiative has been launched. It targets three areas: guidance on qualified health claims for conventional food and dietary supplements, strengthening enforcement of dietary supplement rules, and establishing an FDA Task Force on Consumer Health Information for Better Nutrition. The Task Force will be cochaired by Deputy FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford and Joseph A Levitt, Director, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN). Task Force members include: Van Hubbard, MD, PhD, NIH; Joanne R. Lupton, PhD, Visiting Scientist at CFSAN and Professor at Texas A&M University; Alan Rules, PhD, Director, Office of Food Science and Safety; Christine L. Taylor, PhD, Director, Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling and Dietary Supplements, CFSAN; Kathleen Elwood, PhD, Associate Director for Nutrition and Policy, CFSAN; and Elizabeth A. Yetley, PhD, Lead Scientist for Nutrition, CFSAN, among others. Information is available online at:


To Get the Lead out, Get the Fat out

In a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives (2002;110:A767-A772), researchers found an association between fat intake and blood lead levels in a group of low-income urban children. The children who ate the most fat calories had the highest blood levels of lead. They speculated that this was possibly because the children might be eating more finger foods, which are often high in fat. Another theory is that there is something in fat itself that increases the body's retention of lead. Primary prevention of lead poisoning in children includes the removal of lead paint.


Sucralose Will Now Sweeten the Irish Table

Ireland has granted Sucralose, a sucrose-based artificial sweetener, a temporary authorization for use as a tabletop sweetener and sweetening agent in several foods. The European Scientific Committee for Food set the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for Sucralose at 0 to 15 mg/kg/body weight per day for public use. At approximately 600 times as sweet as sugar and stable at even high temperatures, Sucralose can be used in baked products as well as sweetened breakfast cereals and salad dressings. ( 1/17/03).


Breast-feeding: Does it Help Protect Against Childhood Obesity?

Using a cross-sectional survey design, researchers collected data on 33,768 schoolchildren aged 6 to 14 years in the Czech Republic who were formerly breast-fed. They had a 9.3% prevalence of obesity, compared with 12.4% in never breast-fed peers.


Increasing age of the children did not reduce the association. The study controlled for parental education, parental obesity, maternal smoking, high birth weight, watching television, number of siblings, and physical activity. (The Journal of Pediatrics 2002;141:6)


Beware of Being Fat at 40

Researchers using data from the Framingham Heart Study concluded that obesity by itself was responsible for reducing approximately 6 years from a person's lifespan if he or she were obese at age 40. The study analyzed the life expectancy and probability of death before age 70 of the 3,457 participants, after controlling for gender and smoking status. The greater the percentage of overweight, the shorter the life expectancy. Persons who smoked and were obese had the highest risk of earlier death. (Annals of Internal Medicine 2003; 138:24-32).


Ephedra Labeled Dangerous by FDA

The FDA is considering mandating a warning label for products containing the popular dietary supplement Ephedra. Used by consumers to help them lose weight, the product, a derivative of the plant ma huang, has been linked to serious side effects, such as heart palpitations, heart attack, stroke, and sudden death. (Boston Globe 3/1/03)


Soybeans Can Provide Bioavailable Iron in Iron-Deficient Women

A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, (2003; 77:180-184) indicates that soybeans may be acceptable as a source of bioavailable iron. In the study, women consumed meals with isotopically labeled soybeans as soup or muffins and a reference dose of FE (59) as ferrous sulfate in ascorbate solution. The average iron absorption from the soybean foods was 27%, making them a good source of the mineral. The results suggest that more research is needed to determine that if, indeed, with a little manipulation of seed iron content, soybeans could be used as a low-cost easily available iron booster for many of the world's women and children who are iron deficient.


Can You Trust the Label?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has loosened labeling standards for food labels somewhat, and more label claims can be expected. Starting in January 2003, the food industry has been allowed to make label claims based on "the weight of the scientific evidence" or when the evidence supporting the claim outweighs the evidence in opposition. Previously required to meet the more stringent standard of "significant scientific evidence," the new ruling levels the playing field between the food industry and the dietary supplement community. For example, yogurt products can now carry a label stating "may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis." Many in the scientific community believe this is a setback for consumers who trust the government to serve as a watchdog agency. (New York Times, 1/01/03)