May 16, 2007
Book: TWINKIE, DECONSTRUCTED: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated into What America Eats (Hudson Street Press; March 2007; 978-159463-018-7; $23.95) by Steve Ettlinger, a pop-science journey into the surprising ingredients found in dozens of common packaged foods, using the Twinkie label as a guide.
From the publisher:
In this fascinating exploration into the curious world of packaged foods, Twinkie, Deconstructed takes us from phosphate mines in Idaho to corn fields in Iowa, from gypsum mines in Oklahoma to oil fields in China, to demystify some of America’s most common processed food ingredients—where they come from, how they are made, how they are used—and why. Beginning at the source (hint: they’re often more closely linked to rocks and petroleum than any of the four food groups), Ettlinger reveals how each Twinkie ingredient goes through the process of being crushed, baked, fermented, refined, and/or reacted into a totally unrecognizable goo or powder with a strange name—all for the sake of creating a simple snack cake.An insightful, entertaining exploration of modern food industry, if you’ve ever wondered what you’re eating when you consume foods containing mono and diglycerides or calcium sulfate (the latter, a food-grade equivalent of plaster of Paris), this book is for you.
May 02, 2007
Florida School District serving Faux Fat in School Lunches
From the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
The district began widespread use of Z Trim [a water and corn-fiber gel] about a month ago but has been testing it since early this year in recipes to see what students and faculty think. The goal is to reduce the amount of fat in bread, cake, cookies and salad dressing by half while eliminating the yuck factor associated with some other faux fats.
The Illinois company marketing the product, Z Trim Holdings, touts it as a safe way to reduce calories while maintaining a pleasing taste and texture in foods such as rolls, cake, salad dressing and mayonnaise.
"I'm excited because we've found another food product that helps us to improve the health and lifestyle of students naturally," said Jonathan Dickl, the Volusia district's new food-services director. "It's something we believe in."
In January, Dickl read a news article about Z Trim and decided Volusia schoolchildren could benefit from it.
Dietitians say the imitation fat is innocuous because it's made from natural ingredients; the U.S. Food and Drug Administration categorizes it as generally safe. The Center for Science in the Public Interest agrees. The nonprofit nutrition-advocacy group says that Z Trim is a good way for food companies to add fiber to their customers' diets while decreasing the amount of saturated and trans fats.
March 15, 2007
Chemical "obesogens" may play role in obesity
A recent Washington Post article describes recent and ongoing scientific research on "endocrine disruptors" -- chemicals that can trigger fat-cell activity -- a process scientists call adipogenesis.
"[We discovered] that tributyltin disrupted genetic interactions that regulate fat-cell activity in animals. "Exposure to tributyltin is increasing the number of fat cells, so the individual will get fatter faster as these cells produce more of the hormones that say 'feed me,'" Blumberg said. The exposed animals, he added, remain predisposed to obesity for life.
Retha R. Newbold, a developmental biologist at the NIEHS, has seen similar lifetime effects in her work with diethylstilbestrol (DES), a potent synthetic estrogen she has studied for 30 years.
Newbold's research has shown that mice exposed to DES during early development produced more fat cells, larger fat cells, and more abdominal fat than those not exposed. Exposed mice became obese adults and remained obese even on reduced calorie and increased exercise regimes. Like tributyltin, DES appeared to permanently disrupt the hormonal mechanisms regulating body weight.
"Once these genetic changes happen in utero, they are irreversible and with the individual for life," Newbold said.
February 24, 2007
Functional Foods in Europe
From NPICenter: A food supplement industry group, the European Botanical Forum, has recently developed a safety evaluation model for possible use in used in future regulation of botanicals under food law.
Botanicals include fruit and vegetables, herbs and spices, herbal teas and infusions, herbs added to foods and beverages for taste or functional purposes and botanical food supplements. Many botanicals however, also have medicinal uses, making the task of determining which legal framework applies to which product difficult.
“Safety is key,” stated Dr Manfred Ruthsatz, Chairman of the European Botanical Forum. “The aim of the negative list is to provide a document that is widely acceptable across the 27 EU member states to allow safe applications under food law on the principle that if there is no safety risk there should [not] be any regulation. The inclusion of botanicals into negative lists, however, should be considered with care since it would preclude use of the botanical entity for all food applications whereas the safety of derivatives, extracts or isolates can be frequently demonstrated.”
The model is a response to European Parliament action last Spring regarding Functional Foods and nutritional supplements. More on European functional foods regulation: Herbalgram.org
December 26, 2006
Mid-oleic oil replacing trans fats
The New York Times Science page has a question and answer item on a new oil being used in place of high trans-fat partially hydrogenated oils. The "new" oil comes from hybrid sunflowers that produce more oleic oil than conventional sunflowers.
Oleic acid is a mono-unsaturated fat, like that found in olive oil, and mid-oleic oil is about 65 percent oleic acid. The rest is a low level of saturated fat and a moderate level of polyunsaturated fat, mostly linoleic acid.
Linoleic acid provides good taste when used for deep fat frying but deteriorates quickly in the vat and oxidizes on the shelf unless it is hydrogenated, producing trans fats. Raising the share of oleic acid obviates the need for hydrogenation or even partial hydrogenation without sacrificing taste, Agriculture Department researchers say.
The oil, called NuSun™, is not actually that new. The USDA published an article in Agricultural Research Magazine in June 1998 extolling the virtues of NuSun™. The sunflower hybrids wseem to have been developed primarily to reduce the need for costly hydrogenation. But elimination of artificial trans fats was an additional benefit:
The costly processing step of bubbling hydrogen into polyunsaturated oils--partial hydrogenation--won't be required to protect against flavor deterioration. No hydrogenation means no formation of trans fatty acids that some nutritionists claim may be unhealthful. Not common in plants, trans fatty acids are geometrically altered forms of once polyunsaturated fatty acids, like linoleic and linolenic, that had multiple places for hydrogen atoms to bond, or saturate.
Link to National Sunflower Association's NuSun™ website.