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[check mark] Common Illnesses Tied to Produce


[check mark] Atkins to Treat Childhood Seizures?


[check mark] Salt Taste and Birth Weigh


Can Eating Your Vegetables Make You Sick?

More Americans are eating their vegetables, but this healthy trend may come with a risk because illnesses traced to fresh produce are on the rise. It is a surprise to note that fruits and vegetables are now responsible for more large-scale outbreaks of food-borne illnesses than do meat, poultry, or eggs. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overall, produce-borne disease now accounts for 12% of food-borne illnesses and 6% of the outbreaks, up from 1% of the illnesses and 0.7% of outbreaks in the 1970s. Meanwhile, it is good news that meat-related E coli infections have been on the decline. Factors responsible for this may include the centralization of produce distribution, a rise in produce imports, and the growing popularity of prechopped fruits and vegetables. Both the government and the industry have identified 5 products that are particularly problematic: tomatoes, melons (especially cantaloupes), lettuce, sprouts, and green onions.


The federal government is stepping up efforts to get everyone along the produce chain-growers, processors, supermarkets, and restaurants-to clean up their acts. A group within the Food and Drug Administration is pushing to expand certain food-safety practices beyond food processors to cover those who harvest, store, and distribute raw agricultural products. The produce industry is also developing detailed guidelines covering each step of the journey, from the farm to the market, to fork for several popular forms of produce. The first guidelines, on melons, recommend delaying harvesting of melons or extra washing of them after heavy rains, to decrease risks of contamination from the soil.


One thing that officials stress is the importance of washing. A survey published in the Journal of Food Protection in 2002 found that 6% of consumers seldom or never wash fresh produce, more than 35% do not bother to wash melons, and nearly half do not wash their hands before handling fresh produce. The study estimated that each year, 65 million to 81 million Americans become sick from eating food prepared at home.


Source: The Wall Street Journal


Modified Atkins Diet for Childhood Seizures?

A modified version of a popular low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet is nearly as effective at controlling seizures as the highly restrictive ketogenic diet, Johns Hopkins Children's Center researchers report in a small, open trial of the 2 diets. The common elements in both the ketogenic and Atkins diets are relatively high-fat and low-carbohydrate foods that alter the body's chemistry. The ketogenic diet mimics some of the effects of starvation, in which the body first uses up glucose and glycogen before burning stored body fat. In the absence of glucose, the body produces ketones, a chemical by-product of fat that can inhibit seizures.


The modified Atkins diet is better tolerated by children and may be easier for parents and children to follow than the ketogenic diet, said Eric Kossoff, MD, a pediatric neurologist at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, who presented the study's findings at the American Epilepsy Society.


Although the ketogenic diet appears to have been effective in controlling some cases of pediatric epilepsy since its introduction in 1921, it has several drawbacks and side effects. The highly restrictive regimen requires accurate measurement of all foods and liquids to ensure consumption of the proper ratio of fats, carbohydrates, and protein necessary to produce ketones. The diet starts with a brief fasting and hospital stay, during which time families are trained in the rigors of the diet. Side effects can include kidney stones, constipation, and slowed growth. The modified Atkins diet also produces ketones but requires no restrictions on calories, fluids, and protein and does not require hospital admission and fasting to begin. It also does not require the accurate weighing and measuring of foods, which may translate to better compliance with the regimen, researchers concluded.


The Hopkins study examined 20 children (ages 3 to 18 years) who were having between 4 and 470 seizures a week and whose illness was unresponsive to drug therapy. The children were put on a regimen that included fewer carbohydrates than the standard Atkins diet does, for 6 months. Of the 16 who completed the study, 13 had a greater than 50% improvement in seizures, 7 had a greater than 90% improvement, and 4 were seizure-free. A third of patients did not benefit from the diet. Side effects overall were low, with 1 child developing a complication that did not warrant stopping the diet, despite a brief hospitalization. Most children gained weight in the study.


Although hardly a miracle cure, some limited progress did seem to be present in some patients. However, parents should not try any diet regimen for epilepsy without supervision and careful medical management by a specialized healthcare team. And before it is clear that either diet works to somewhat improve symptoms, randomized, double-blind clinical trials are needed.


Source: American Epilepsy Society Meeting


Salty Taste Preference Linked to Birth Weight

A study from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition may shed light on why some people like salt more than others; it may have to do with their birth weight. Researchers found that individual differences in salty taste acceptance by 2-month-old infants were inversely related to birth weight: Lighter-birth weight infants showed greater acceptance of salt-water solutions than did babies who were heavier at birth.


In the study, 80 healthy babies weighing at least 5.5 lb (2.5 kg) at birth were given separate bottles containing plain water and salt water. When the amount of salt water the babies drank was compared with the amount of plain water, preference for the salt water was greater in lower-birth weight babies, while higher-birth weight babies tended to reject the salty water.


When salty taste acceptance was assessed in 38 of the same children at preschool age (3-4 years), measures of salty taste acceptance were once again related to birth weight, with increased liking and preference for salty foods evident in the lower-birth weight children.


Source: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition


Poor Fitness Associated with Increase in Cardiovascular Disease

About a third of adolescents and 14% of adults (aged 20 to 49 years) in the United States have poor cardiorespiratory fitness, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, such as higher total cholesterol and blood pressure levels, are also common among them, according to a recent study. Many studies link physical inactivity and poor cardiorespiratory fitness (ie, fitness) to higher illness and death from all causes, including CVD and cancer.


The study was an analysis of data from the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which included more than 3,000 adolescents (ages 12 to 19 years) and approximately 2,200 adults (ages 20 to 49 years) who were all free of CVD. The participants underwent a treadmill fitness test that measured heart rate and estimated aerobic capacity. They were then categorized into high-, moderate-, and low-fitness groups based on the results of this test.


Overall, more than 19% of these people, or an estimated 16 million US adolescents and adults younger than 50 years, fell into the low-fitness group. A whopping 34% of adolescents (an estimated 7.5 million individuals) and 14% of adults (an estimated 8.5 million people) failed the fitness test.


Among adolescents, both adolescent boys and girls were equally likely to be in the low-fitness group. Among adults, however, there were significantly more out-of-shape women than men (16% vs 12%), perhaps because women engage in physical activity less frequently than men do.


Compared with their fitter counterparts, members of the low-fitness group were more likely to have risk factors for CVD. For example, among adult women, those in the low-fitness group were more likely to be overweight, to have newly identified high blood pressure, and high blood cholesterol.


Source: JAMA. 2005; 294:2981-2988.


Sodium: Far Too High

Americans are still getting more sodium than they need, which increases their risks for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.


Although people who already have high blood pressure generally consume less sodium than others do because they have been told to take it easy on the salt, their average daily intake is still far higher than recommended levels, according to epidemiologists at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Promotion. They analyzed data collected in 1999 and 2000 from a random sample of more than 4,000 Americans who were part of a regular government health survey. They found that 42% of those surveyed had high blood pressure. Incidence of high blood pressure is usually approximately one third for an average group.


People with high blood pressure took in 3,330 mg of sodium a day, and people without it consumed 3,600 mg/day, far more than the 2,400 mg maximum recommended by the American Heart Association and other groups. There was no difference in sodium intake between patients advised about sodium consumption and those who were not. People may need to be told that foods that do not taste salty can still contain high levels of sodium. For example, a doughnut can have as much as 257 mg of sodium, approximately 10% of the recommended daily limit. Table salt is sodium chloride, but other many other chemicals in food also contain sodium, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and sodium benzoate, which are used in foods as flavorings or preservatives.


Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2005; 29(supp 4).