Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Can a Non-Profit Urban Food Initiative Alleviate Food Insecurity?

Doug Rauch, former President of Trader Joe's

Doug Rauch, former President of Trader Joe’s

Healthy eating (especially produce) is well out of reach for many who have hungry mouths to feed (despite ivory tower experts who proclaim that you can eat healthy for under $2 a day if you only follow their “tips”).

As food insecurity is certainly one of the key drivers of obesity especially within the lower socioeconomic strata, I was very interested in a paper by Deepak Palakshappa and colleagues, who describe a non-profit initiative to address food insecurity, in a paper published in JAMA Pediatrics.

This initiative, that has yet to open its first store, is to be launched by Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s grocery chain, who believes that nonprofit supermarkets in low-income neighborhoods can help provide nutritious low-cost foods by selling food gathered from the fresh produce and perishables that are discarded from other supermarkets. (The first store, named the Daily Table, has been proposed to open in Dorchester, a low-income neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts.)

Indeed, there is an incredible amount of food that goes waste because it either does not meet the high standards of appearance of supermarket chains or is close to or past its “best-before” date.

As the authors point out,

“While most people believe these dates are based on safety, manufacturers and retailers focus on a product’s shelf life, which is based on peak freshness, which is a function of how the food looks and smells. Many manufacturers date their products earlier because of concerns about protecting their brand image. The US Department of Agriculture states the labels are not safety dates and if food is handled and stored properly, it should be safe to consume even if it is past the date. The confusion specifically regarding date labeling is estimated to lead to 32 billion pounds of avoidable food waste a year.”

The paper also discusses whether such an approach would be deemed ethical. As the authors are quick to point out, the first store has yet to be opened so exactly how things will play out in real life awaits to be seen. 

However, there are good reasons to assume that this initiative has the potential to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables and offers option of purchasing low-cost healthy foods rather than mandating their consumption of healthy foods. The location of these stores in low-income neighbourhoods should help addresses the disparity in access to healthy foods by providing a convenient place for individuals who otherwise may not have healthy foods readily available.

The stores will also offer cooking and health eating classes to promote the autonomy of clients to determine with items to purchase.

The authors also hope that this approach, rather than blaming the individual, will provide an environment conducive to healthier eating while also respecting local social and cultural values.

Of course, whether all of this will work and whether or not such an initiative can be economically viable in the long term remains to be seen. Nevertheless, the initiators of this idea should at least be commended on giving this a shot.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB 

Hat tip to Geoff and Ximena for bringing this article to my attention

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Hormonal Responses to Food Intake Begin in Your Mouth

ChewOnThisLogoIn my current show at the 33rd Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival, I joke about the importance of chewing your food. This has classically been noted to be of importance to allow the enzymes in saliva to begin the process of digestion.

However, now a fascinating study by Yong Zhu and colleagues from Iowa State University, published in Physiology and Behaviour shows that chewing prompts hormonal changes that vary based on the composition of the food.

In their study, ten healthy males volunteers underwent a sham-feeding experiments (you chew but do not swallow your food) after an overnight fast with 3-min chewing of water, high-fat (nuts), high-carbohydrate (cereal) or high-protein (cheese) food provided in a randomized order (on four separate occasions).

While plasma glucose levels increased slightly and plasma lipids decreased slightly after all test foods, the high-carbohydrate food elicited significantly higher insulin, and the high-protein food resulted in higher ghrelin compared to other test sessions.

The authors attribute these changes in part to neuronal signals transmitted through the vagal nerve, which can for e.g. stimulate glucagon release, thereby explaining the observed increase in plasma glucose levels after all foods.

This study shows that short-term oral exposure to different foods can result in metabolic and hormonal changes that are partly dependent on diet composition.

If nothing else, this study points to the fact that chewing is not simply about mechanically preparing food for swallowing – it is far more a process that puts the organism into a nutritive state with distinct metabolic and hormonal changes.

Chew your food!

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

ResearchBlogging.orgZhu Y, Hsu WH, & Hollis JH (2014). Modified sham feeding of foods with different macronutrient compositions differentially influences cephalic change of insulin, ghrelin, and NMR-based metabolomic profiles. Physiology & behavior, 135, 135-42 PMID: 24952264

 

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Prebiotic Fibre Alters Mother Milk and Offspring Gut Bacteria in Rats

sharma-obesity-suckling-rat1With all the attention to the role of gut microbiota and the ongoing debate as to the role of breast feeding in obesity prevention, a study by Raylene Reimer and colleagues from the University of Calgary adds an interesting spin.

Their study, now published in OBESITY shows that feeding female rat a diet high in prebiotic fibre (21.6% wt/wt) throughout pregnancy and lactation, compared to a control or high-protien (40% wt/wt) diet, results in a lower oligosaccharide content of the milk with a higher content of bifidobacteria in the offspring.

Although this did not lead to any marked differences in body composition or other metabolic parameters, the study proves the point that (at least in rats) maternal diet can affect the composition of gut bacteria in the offspring (which may or may not have metabolic benefits).

There is no reason to believe that in humans maternal nutrition may well impart a similar influence via breast feeding on the microbiota of infants.

This certainly sounds like a promising field for future research.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

ResearchBlogging.orgHallam MC, Barile D, Meyrand M, German JB, & Reimer RA (2014). Maternal high protein or prebiotic fiber diets affect maternal milk composition and gut microbiota in rat dams and their offspring. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.) PMID: 25056822

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Monday, July 14, 2014

How To Prevent Gallstones During Weight Loss

GallstonesOne of the best recognised complications of weight loss – especially if this occurs too rapidly – are the development of gallstones, which can result in acute symptoms and often require surgery.

Now Caroline Stokes and colleagues from the Saarland University Medical Center, Homburg, Germany, publish a systematic review of strategies to prevent weight-loss associate gallbladder stones in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Their analysis includes 13 randomised-controlled trials, comprising 1836 participants undergoing weight loss through dieting (8 trials) or bariatric surgery (5 trials).

Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) reduced the risk of ultrasound-verified gallstones compared with control interventions with a risk ratio of 0.33 and a number-needed-to-treat (NNT) of only 9.

They also found a significant risk reduction with high-fat weight loss diets (risk ration 0.09).

No adverse effects were noted for either intervention.

Thus, it is evident that UDCA and/or higher dietary fat content prevent the formation of gallstones during weight loss and these treatments should likely be initiated particularly in patients, who are undergoing rapid weight loss (particularly those at high risk of gallbladder stones).

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

ResearchBlogging.orgStokes CS, Gluud LL, Casper M, & Lammert F (2014). Ursodeoxycholic Acid and Diets Higher in Fat Prevent Gallbladder Stones During Weight Loss: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Clinical gastroenterology and hepatology : the official clinical practice journal of the American Gastroenterological Association, 12 (7), 1090-110000 PMID: 24321208

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Guidelines for Managing Overweight and Obesity in Adults

the obesity societyRegular readers may recall a previous post on guidelines on obesity management released by The Obesity Society (TOS) together with other organisations, including the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, at Obesity Week in Atlanta last year (2013).

The bottom line, as I have blogged before, was the revelation of just how little we actually know about obesity.

For what it is worth, the complete guidelines are now published as a supplement to its July issue of the Obesity journal (Guidelines (2013) for Managing Overweight and Obesity in Adults: Full Report).

According to The Obesity Society’s press release,

TOS is investing in the improved treatment of obesity by making the full guidelines available in print so they can serve as a go-to resource for health practitioners around the world. Whether you are a physician, nurse, nutritionist or fitness trainer, every professional interacting with individuals with obesity can find value in this insightful treatment guide.

No doubt, a tremendous amount of work went into developing these guidelines – whether they will substantially change practice remains to be seen.

@DrSharma
Vancouver, BC

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In The News

Diabetics in most need of bariatric surgery, university study finds

Oct. 18, 2013 – Ottawa Citizen: "Encouraging more men to consider bariatric surgery is also important, since it's the best treatment and can stop diabetic patients from needing insulin, said Dr. Arya Sharma, chair in obesity research and management at the University of Alberta." Read article

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