Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Health campaigners in Australia are proposing to change the current labeling regulations to make more explicit the message about the quality of food in packed food products. The basic premise is that consumers must understand whether a food is balanced in terms of various nutrients and whether they contain too much "negative" nutrients like salt, sugar and fat, the three most dreaded food constituents thought to be responsible for almost all health afflictions noticed amongst the population in many countries. According to these experts food processing industry must be forced to categorize their products into low, medium and high levels of fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium per 100 gm of the product. Each category must be given red, amber or green color depending on the composition just like the traffic light signal and these color codes must be printed on the front of the pack so that consumers can choose invariably the ones having a green color code for healthy living and pick up others only occasionally. Probably such a move may persuade processors to strive for getting green code for their products. While the idea may sound good, how far such a move will help alleviating the present food driven health crisis remains to be seen.

After red wine it is the turn of Cranberry juice to claim that regular consumption of this highly colored juice can control blood pressure (BP) in people afflicted by this disorder. According to some scientists from the UK, presence of oligomeric procyanidins in Cranberry juice helps to strengthen the blood vessels and resist their constriction due to which high blood pressure develops. Probably Cranberry juice is recommended for those people who are teetotalers reluctant to consume alcohol containing beverages. Reports like this make the consumers confused, especially if they are on prescription drugs for controlling their BP. The unanswered question is whether modifying the diet to include cranberry juice can obviate the need for taking these medicines regularly. No one knows!

Bisphenol A (BPA) contamination of food from polycarbonate packing material used in food contact applications is assuming serious dimension vis-à-vis safety of foods from the processed food industry. First detected in polycarbonate infant feeding bottles, the contamination was noticed in many packed foods subsequently. The estrogenic property of BPA allows it to interfere with some metabolic functions with undesirable consequence. Now comes the news that BPA exposure for pregnant women can result in permanent reproduction problem for their off springs. Though this has been shown only in experimental animals by a US study, the implications for humans are grave. Of course there will be further studies to confirm whether what was observed in mice can happen in humans also.

Green tea is universally acclaimed as a healthy beverage because of its rich content of antioxidants that can neutralize the effect of oxyradicals generated in the body, known to accelerate cellular death which can curtail the life span in humans. There are many other antioxidants like Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Lutein, Zeaxanthin, many poly phenolic substances that can do the job to varying extent depending on the efficacy of bodily absorption. Catechins which are present in green tea in abundance have been found to reach the eye tissues after absorption from GI and transportation to retina and the aqueous humour area. Both gallo catechin and epigallo catechin, the two important catechins in green tea reduced the undesirable oxidative stress in the eye up to 20 hours after ingestion. These findings with rats need confirmation in humans where absorption mechanics are some what different and the efficacy of transportation of the active ingredients in green tea to the eye tissues can be vary considerably.

Baby foods have become a taboo, especially with health experts who find them a temptation for many mothers to discontinue breast feeding which is considered important for the optimal development of new born babies. The recent finding that introduction of solid foods can be delayed as much as possible to ensure a more healthy child is going to be another factor in persuading young mothers to persist with breast feeding for maximum periods. According to Danish researchers, late introduction of solid and supplementary foods might cut down the risk of developing obesity significantly amongst such children when they reach middle age. For each month's delay in introducing solid foods the obesity risk is reduced by 10%. How ever medical community, especially pediatric doctors, must be convinced before implementing such changes in child feeding practices.

Is it possible that a child brought up by grand parents could become possible candidates for developing over weight when they grow up? If some researchers are to be believed such a contingency is possible and these findings come after surveying 12000 kids of 3 years old in the UK. Possible reasons attributed to this phenomenon is the indulgence shown by grand parents in feeding the children and lack of physical activity amongst them due too much fondling. Whether this is true amongst the children and grand parents out side the UK may need further study.

The fact that scientific research does not leave any thing to imagination is borne out by the following "gem"! According to a Swedish study drinking just 3 cups of coffee daily can reduce the bust size of women. It was further brought out that breast cancer has links with the size of the bust and larger the breasts higher is the risk of developing cancer. One can only guess how this finding is going to upset the "beauty industry" in future.

There are thousands of such research findings coming out every day from laboratories all over the world, most of which use mice for carrying out their studies and splash their findings in popular media without any peer review. As long as these findings get published in peer reviewed scientific periodicals, they may remain there as scientific curiosities which may attract researchers to take the studies further. Probably more constraint is called for on the part of the media in giving undeserved publicity and create confusion and fear amongst common man.


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