American Dietetic Assn Expo a Mixed Bag

The American Dietetic Assn.'s annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) may be beginning to exhibit symptoms of split-personality disorder.

By David Feder, R.D.

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This year's FNCE, held in Philadelphia Sept. 29 through Oct. 3, was a mixed bag. The education sessions left a lot to be desired. However, the expo floor - once a somewhat hum-drum experience of unchanging nutritional supplement displays and dietetic practice tools - has caught up to the state of the nutritional field.

This was the 13th year I attended FNCE, and it just gets more disconcerting to see the same studies being presented with such seasonal regularity. One feels they should now be accompanied by crèches and carols, or at least a turkey dinner. It's never a total loss - the smaller, research-presentation sessions still hold great nuggets of attention-getting developments in nutrition science. But the main "symposium" sessions are sometimes D.O.A. (One speaker actually delivered the exact presentation, word-for-word, he gave last year.)

Still, the presentations weren't a total wash. Some interesting new research that did rise above the "same-old, same-old" that gets trundled out every year included additional confirmation of preliminary indications that sleep deprivation could play a role in obesity. Two studies on the topic - well-conducted studies, including one which, in an all-too-rare ADA moment was a month away from publication - showed marked differences in the hormones related to hunger, satiety and diabetes.

Specifically, it was shown lack of sleep directly affected levels and functionability of insulin, the blood sugar-regulating hormone. Grehlin and leptin, hormones related to hunger and satiety, also take a direct hit from consistent lack of sleep. These studies followed research of a year and a half ago relating obesity and resistance to weight loss to lack of sleep. The best description tendered was that chronic lack of sleep makes the blood sugar and satiety management profile of a healthy young adult mimic that of a prediabetic 80 year-old. Powerful image, that.

This is without question the cutting-edge research area to keep an eye on, as the implications are huge for the way we look at, treat and formulate foods and beverages for weight management, diabetes and obesity.

Another surprise this year was the exhibit floor. Ingredient companies finally figured out that ADA is a good group to get to know. National Starch Food Innovation, Cargill, Sambazon, Martek, Carmi and a few others were there, many for the first time.

"This was Sambazon's first year at the show and we were so glad to participate in it," exclaimed Laura Leinweber, communications director for açai pioneers Sambazon Inc. (www.sambazon.com), San Clemente, Calif. "Participating in a dialogue with industry professionals about top food and nutrition trends was certainly something we were glad to be part of. Many attendees enjoyed learning about açai's healthful and delicious properties. We'll be at the Chicago (2008) show for sure," she added.

With 20,000 nutrition educators, communicators and other professionals on hand, ingredients such as resistant starch or inulin come out from under the blanket of trade magazines and research journals and are made real for the folks who will be talking about them to media, consumers and R&D teams.

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