Wellness Foods HealthBites: February 2007

What's happening in the world of nutrition and health.

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EYE ON…TRENDS: Energy Backlash

In a culture thriving on caffeine and other stimulants, the increased demand for nutraceutical sources of energy has proved a formidable and rapidly growing trend for beverage processors (see "Trends 2007," Dec. 2006). Meanwhile, pharmaceutical sleep aids to bring us down from all the Starbucks, Red Bull, chais and maté drinks we imbibe during the long day have become a multibillion dollar industry. Dreamerz Foods (www.dreamerzfoods.com) could be the vanguard of a trend toward "de-energizing." The Mill Valley, Calif., company is rolling out the first of a line of products designed to aid sleep naturally. The first of these, Dreamerz All Natural Sleep Beverages, are aseptic-packaged, flavored milk-based drinks containing melatonin, a natural sleep-regulating hormone long marketed in pill form. Look for more on Dreamerz All Natural Sleep Beverages in an upcoming issue. Whether more processors will jump on board remains to be seen, but we could definitely seeing a trend in foods and beverages targeting the calmer aspects of day-to-day living.

Fed Updates Calcium and Osteoporosis Health Claim

The Food and Drug Administration is proposing to allow new claims on foods and dietary supplements containing calcium and vitamin D to show their potential to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. The proposed rule would allow manufacturers to include new information on their food and supplement labeling and to eliminate certain other information. Check out our news article on it for more details.

Vitamin D may protect against MS

Results from research reported in the Dec. 2006 issue of the <I>Journal of the American Medical Assn.,</I> increased serum vitamin D may reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) by as much as 62 percent. In a study by Harvard researchers of 257 persons with the disease and 51 healthy controls, lead author Kassandra Munger, M.D., reported that, for every 50-nmol/L (nanomoles per liter) increase in 25-hydroxyvitamin D, the associated risk of MS decreased by 41 per cent. She noted that the inverse association with risk was particularly strong for in younger people.

On a Wing and a Prayer

The poet Dorothy Parker wrote, "Hope is the thing without feathers," but Global Fuels, a start-up biodiesel concern in Dexter, Mo., is betting the farm on a unique source of energy: chicken fat. Relying on proximity to a Tyson Foods poultry plant, Global partners Jerry Bagby and Harold Williams plan to convert yearly enough unrendered animal fat -- normally shipped out of state to be used in pet food and soap -- into 3 million gallons of biodiesel, after combining it with soybean oil. Already in the U.S. a minute amount of biodiesel is made from chicken fat, but most biofuels come from soybeans and corn, at nearly double the cost of chicken fat. Corn and soy can be costly to turn into fuel, plus as land needs increase for fuel-allocated grain production, the environment and food supply are impacted. Focusing on abundant supplies of alternative oil sources such as animal fats will help the suddenly hot biofuel industry take flight. The multibillion dollar meat industry is eager to pick up the drumstick: Tyson Foods instituted a renewable-energy division, and other big meat and poultry processors are working on the same.

Lox Break Locks at Lochs, escape through Locks

Andrea Kavanagh, director of the Washington, D.C.--based Pure Salmon Campaign, raised the alarm recently on the escape of almost 1,000,000 farmed salmon and trout into waters around Norway during 2006 -- 10 percent more than last year. Farmed fish can carry diseases that affect wild populations, compete for food and weaken native species through interbreeding. This threatens the future of wild salmon and trout, as well as other marine life. Farm-raised fish are raised in huge net pens   already controversial for their negative effect on marine ecosystems. "(O)pen ocean-fish farms need to switch to closed containment systems," stated Kavanagh. "Closed containers, including fiberglass, cement tanks and heavy-gauge plasticized bags physically separate fish from the external environment and would make problems like this a thing of the past."

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