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[check mark] The Skinny on the Fat Health Claim


[check mark] Folic Acid Does Not Reduce CVD Risk


[check mark] New Government Tools to Help Consumer Confusion


Food and Drug Administration Authorizes a Health Claim for Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, and Trans-Fat and Reduced Risk of Heart Disease

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition has issued a new a health claim for the relationship between dietary consumption of saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans-fat and the risk of heart disease. Manufacturers may use the claim specified in the notification on the label and in labeling of any food product that meets the eligibility criteria described below, unless or until FDA or a court acts to prohibit the claim. The following statements are considered authoritative: "Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids and less than 300 mg/day of cholesterol, and keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible"[horizontal ellipsis] "High intake of saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol increases the risk of unhealthy blood lipids levels, which, in turn, may increase the risk of coronary heart disease." Food(s) eligible to bear the claim must (1) meet the FDA regulatory definitions for "low saturated fat" and "low cholesterol" (<=1 g of saturated fat and <=20 mg of cholesterol per serving); (2) contain less than 0.5 g of trans-fat per serving or meet any FDA definition of "low" trans-fat if a definition is established; and (3) contain less than 6.5 g total fat per serving. The document is posted at


Folic Acid Supplements Do Not Reduce Cardiovascular Disease Risk

An analysis of previous studies suggests that for people with a history of vascular disease, folic acid supplementation does not decrease the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke, as has been suggested in some research, according to a review article in JAMA.


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States and worldwide, accounting for approximately 30% of deaths worldwide and 10% of the global burden of disease. Of all deaths in the United States, 37% (1 in every 2.7) are caused by CVD. Observational epidemiologic studies indicate that increased folate intake is related to a lower risk of CVD, and randomized controlled trials document that dietary supplementation with folic acid reduces blood levels of homocysteine. Homocysteine is a vascular toxin that has been associated with an increased risk of CVD. Most trials generally have had insufficient statistical power on their own and have provided inconsistent findings, the authors write. A meta-analysis of 12 randomized clinical trials with almost 17,000 participants was performed to explore the relationship between folic acid supplementation and risk of CVD and all-cause death among persons with preexisting vascular disease. Folic acid supplementation was compared with either placebo or usual care for a minimum duration of 6 months and with clinical CVD events reported as an end point.


The researchers found that in comparing the folic acid supplementation groups with the controls groups, the total proportion of events were the following: for CVD, 18.3% versus 19.2%; for coronary heart disease, 11.4% versus 10.6%; for stroke, 4.7% versus 5.8%; and for all-cause death, 12.0% versus 12.3%, respectively. The findings suggest that folic acid supplementation is ineffective in the secondary prevention of CVD among persons with a history of vascular diseases.


Source: JAMA. 2006;296:2720-2726.


Overweight Young Women Have Reduced Risk of Developing Premenopausal Breast Cancer

A higher body mass index (BMI), especially in early adulthood, may be associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer before menopause. This association does not seem to be related to ovulation problems that overweight women may develop. Premenopausal women were part of the Nurses' Health Study II. Between 1989 and 2003, 1,398 cases of invasive breast cancer occurred among the women. Those with a current BMI of 30 or higher had a 19% lower risk of breast cancer compared with those who had a BMI between 20 and 22.4, after adjusting for family history, personal characteristics, lifestyle habits, and menstrual variables. Women whose BMI was 27.5 or higher at age 18 years had a 43% lower risk of developing breast cancer than those whose BMI at 18 years old was between 20 and 22.4. The association did not change when the researchers considered current BMI, and the link may be hormonal or due to the fact that obese women are less likely to be screened for breast cancer.


Source: Archives of Internal Medicine


Fortified Milk Reduces Morbidity in Preschool Children

Consumption of milk fortified with specific micronutrients-zinc, iron, selenium, copper, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E-significantly reduced diarrhea and acute lower respiratory illness among children in developing countries, according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Center for Micronutrient Research at Annamalai University in India.


Some micronutrients have a crucial role in generation, maintenance, and amplification of immune responses in the body. Deficiencies in multiple micronutrients among preschool children are an important determinant of child health in developing countries. The authors conducted a randomized, controlled trial in children older than 12 months whose primary source of nutrition was not breast-feeding.


The children who received fortified milk had fewer episodes of diarrhea and acute lower respiratory illness (pneumonia). Fortified milk reduced the number of days with severe illness by 15%, the number of days with high fever by 7%, the incidence of diarrhea by 18%, and the incidence of pneumonia by 26%. The results suggest that micronutrients can be delivered successfully through fortified milk, which is also a well-accepted delivery method in these communities.


Source: British Medical Journal


Exercise Can Reduce a Smoker's Lung Cancer Risk, but Quitting Smoking Is Still Most Important

In a study of more than 36,000 women, researchers observed that smokers can reduce their risk of developing lung cancer by being physically active. However, they strongly caution that any relative benefit is dwarfed by the benefits gained from quitting smoking.


The researchers report that a high level of physical activity in women who smoked reduced their relative risk of developing lung cancer by 72%. Moderate activity among smokers was associated with a 65% risk reduction, and lower relative risks were also seen in former smokers who had moderate or high activity levels.


Although this may sound like welcome news to female smokers who do not want to quit, the investigators emphasize that the absolute risk of developing lung cancer is still much greater in current and former smokers regardless of activity level.


A physically active smoker has a 35% lower risk of lung cancer than a sedentary smoker, but if both smokers quit, they would both reduce their risk by as much as 10- or 11-fold. These findings were derived from the Iowa Women's Health Study.


Among smokers, the most number of cancer cases (324) were seen among women who currently smoked and had low activity, and the lowest number (40) was in the group of women who formerly smoked and were highly active. Compared with never smokers, current and former smokers had proportionally more squamous cell and small-cell lung cancer, which can be harder to treat than other subtypes. Researchers do not know why activity could lower lung cancer risk, but they suggest that improved pulmonary function may reduce both the concentration of carcinogenic particles in the smoker's airway and the extent to which they are deposited in the lungs. They also theorize that exercise training improves immune function and reduces the inflammatory responses that can impact cancer development.


Source: Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention


Department of Health and Human Services and Food and Drug Administration Announce New Tools to Help Consumers Use the Nutrition Facts Label

Two new learning tools help consumers use the Nutrition Facts label to choose nutritious foods and achieve healthy weight management. The tools are Make Your Calories Count, a Web-based learning program, and a new Nutrition Facts Label brochure. Make Your Calories Count is an interactive online learning program that is also available in a downloadable format. It is designed to help consumers understand and use the Nutrition Facts label to plan a healthy diet while managing energy intake. The program guide features an animated character called "Labelman" who expertly leads the viewer through a series of exercises on the food label. The program includes exercises to help consumers explore the relationship between serving sizes and energy while they learn how to limit certain nutrients and get enough of others. For simplicity, the program presents 2 nutrients that should be limited (saturated fat and sodium) and 2 nutrients that should be consumed in adequate amounts (fiber and calcium). This program is available for online use and in a downloadable format at Food and Drug Administration is also making available a new downloadable Nutrition Facts Label brochure that is targeted for use by consumers and is available at These new learning tools are part of a commitment by the Department of Health and Human Services and the FDA to help reduce the number of overweight persons and obesity in America.