To the ranks of sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami, researchers have added a sixth: “oleogustus,” or the taste for fat. But nutrition scientist Rick Mattes says it’s far from delicious. Found in rancid food, it’s often an unpleasant warning. The finding was announced in the journal Chemical Senses last month.
Read more at NPR.org.
Google has made it even easier to compare two types of foods. Just type the names of those foods versus one another into the search bar (for example: “wheat bread vs white bread”) and the nutrient composition for the two foods will pop up. This side-by-side comparison includes the total calories, macronutrients and micronutrients. There are of course some limitations of the tool, you can only compare two foods at a time for example, and the information may not be completely accurate, but this tool does allow for some quick and easy comparisons. Try it out and see what you discover!
You probably already know that nutritional needs change as we grow older. A healthy diet for an infant, teenager and older adult can all differ dramatically since the body is in different stages of growth. A new study highlights one of these dietary differences and how consuming it at different points in your life may actually change overall health: protein. In this study researchers found a correlation between the amount of protein study participants ate and cancer and premature death. In middle aged people, a low protein diet was associated with lower incidence of cancer and overall mortality, but in older aged adults it was the high protein diet that associated with health. Why would protein needs change so much as we grew older? It may be that a certain molecule in our body that triggers growth is not as responsive to protein intake in older age, so we need more protein to activate it. Read more about this study and the explanation at NPR’s coverage here.
Vitamins are essential nutrients that are required for the function of several proteins in our body. If we become deficient in one or more vitamin entire cellular processes will shut down, leading to sometimes deadly diseases like scurvy, beriberi and pellagra. The body has developed intricate systems to ensure that vitamins are absorbed and stored correctly, preventing deficiency if we go too long without eating our fruits and vegetables. While vitamin storage is helpful, have you ever stopped to think about why the human body requires consumption of specific nutrients in the first place? After all, several other mammals can make many of the vitamins that we must eat. At some point in human evolution the genes that are needed to synthesize vitamins have been silenced or lost. A report from The New York Times looks at this relationship between human evolution and food consumption.
A study has found that organic milk may contain a better balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids than conventional milk. Both types of fatty acids are essential, but it is the omega-3 fatty acids that may have beneficial health effects, like preventing heart disease and lowering inflammation. The typical western diet is low in omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in oily fish and some nuts and seeds, like flaxseed. Claims that pasture raised meats and animal products contain larger concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids compared to grain-fed animals have been made, but this study published in PLoS One is the most clear example to date. In the study, samples of organic and conventional whole fat milk sourced from around the country were analyzed. Organic milk was found to contain 62 percent more omega-3 and 25 percent less omega-6 fatty acids than conventional milk. The study’s authors conclude that drinking the recommended servings of organic whole milk everyday would improve the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the blood, decreasing heart disease risk.
To read more about this study, as well as about why some prominent nutrition scientists question the conclusions of this study check out the article at The New York Times.
An observational study here at Tufts University has found that a deficiency in vitamin B12 is associated with cognitive decline in older adults, even if that deficiency is mild. Adults over the age of 75 were followed for 8 years, during which time dementia was assessed by screening. The adults that had lower vitamin B12 blood levels were more likely to experience cognitive decline during the 8 years. This is an important finding because older adults have a harder time absorbing vitamin B12 from food, which is found in meats, poultry and eggs. Read more about the study here.
It’s not often that nutrition scientists agree as to whether a food or nutrient is good or bad for you, so when an agreement is met it’s worth paying attention to! Synthetic trans fatty acids are one of those nutrients that nutrition scientists can agree is unhealthy since it can lower the “good” HDL cholesterol and increase the “bad” LDL cholesterol. Due to this overwhelming evidence the Food and Drug Administration has proposed a banning of trans fats in food products, which has the potential of eliminating them from the American diet completely. This new regulation does not come without its criticism however, as some nutritionists and dietitians fear that the real problem in American’s diet is saturated fat. Dr. Scott Grundy, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center says “In the push to reduce trans fats, people have been forgetting that saturated fats are much worse because there is a lot more saturated fat in the diet than trans fat”. Read more at The New York Times.