Philadelphia Raising Money For Education Through a Sugar Tax

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Despite the failure of similar laws in more than 30 U.S. cities and states in recent years, and in the face of massive opposition from the beverage industry, Philadelphia (PA) has instituted a 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks and diet beverages. While other U.S. municipalities are considering similar levies – aimed, they say at reducing sugar consumption and obesity – only one locality, Berkeley CA, has such a law on the books. It was instituted in 2014.

Critics contend that such taxes disproportionately affect the poor, who  tend to more prone that other segments of the population to consume sugary drinks.

The same argument is put forth in the U.K., where what amounts to double taxation is about to be applied to sugary drink sales. Double taxation because such beverages already are subject to a sales (VAT) tax, and the new levy will add a levy of as much as twelve pence (eight cents) to the cost of a can of Coke.

The British scheme is intended to force companies who produce drinks like Coca-Cola, Gatorade and tonic water to reduce the amount of sugar in their recipes. Critics of the Conservative government say it has, in reality, just introduced another punitive tax on the poor.

The lowest-earning British citizens, who smoke moderately, already lose 37 percent of their disposal income to “sin taxes,” according to the Institute for Economic Affairs. “Sin taxes are a pious, regressive absurdity,” says the Spectator, riding the wave of incredulity racing across Britain.

Of course, no one is forced to glug their way through super-sized family bottles of Coca-Cola, but studies suggest people on lower incomes are the most regular consumers. By targeting cigarettes—and now sodas—the government is doubling down on disproportionately taxing the poor.

“It is astonishing that the Chancellor has announced a tax on sugary drinks when there is no evidence from anywhere in the world that such taxes have the slightest effect on obesity,” said Mark Littlewood, director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs. “Whether dressed up as a direct tax or a levy on industry, the effect will be that the government will be picking the pockets of the poor for no benefit.”

It’s also something Prime Minister David Cameron promised he would not do—just five months ago. At the time, he did not cite regressive taxation as his primary fear, nor concerns about the nanny state gone wild. He just said it wouldn’t work: “The Prime Minister thinks there are more effective ways of tackling this issue than putting a tax on sugar,” a spokesman said in October.

Well, he’s changed his mind.

His finance minister—Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne—announced that drinks companies would be taxed according to how much sugar is in each drink. One rate for drinks with more than 17.7g per 12-oz can, and a higher rate for those with at least 28g. Coke falls into the top bracket, and would cost around 8 pence (12 cents) more. High-end smoothies and energy drinks will also be subject to the tax, although there are exceptions for milk-based drinks and pure juices.

“I am not prepared to look back at my time here in this Parliament . . . and say to my children’s generation, ‘I’m sorry. We knew there was a problem with sugary drinks. We knew it caused disease. But we ducked the difficult decisions and we did nothing,’” he said.

Soda companies have two years to change their drinks before the levy comes in. A sales tax (VAT) is already charged when customers buy soda, unlike most other food and drink in Britain.

Osborne says he hopes the new tax will force the companies to adapt, but analysts say the charge is likely to be passed straight on to consumers.

Health campaigners, and some former New York mayors, hope that will encourage people to shop differently.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney does not contend his sweet-drinks tax is health oriented: He sold the City Council on the idea by putting forth a plan that would see most of the raised revenue – an estimate $365 million over five years – into schools, preschools and similar education-oriented projects.

After the Council’s vote, Mayor Kenney said, “Thanks to the tireless advocacy of educators, parents, rec[reation] center volunteers and so many others, Philadelphia made a historic investment in our educational system today.”

Not to mention what parents will save by not having to pay to repair sugar-damaged teeth, or for the care of diabetes contributed to by kids’ excess sugar consumption.

 

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Stressed? Bored? Go For Salty Snacks – or Don’t, For Your Health

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Stressed out Americans are driving the US salty snack market to new heights, with 62% of Americans consuming salty snacks as a stress-reliever – up from 16% a year ago—according to new research from Mintel.

The report says more than 30% of consumers eat salty snacks when they are bored – that being, coincidentally, a frequent contributor to stress – and up from 25% eating salty snacks as a boredom-reliever a year earlier.

Where are salty snacks consumers indulging themselves? Mintel reports that 33% of those surveyed eat them away from home, 26% and eat them while at work. As that amounts to only 59% of the study group, one night assume – from the provided information – 41% of salty snack eaters, in this group, anyway, randomly absorb them while so distracted they have no clue where they are at the time they do so.

Smokers similarly report that doing so serves to relieve stress or boredom, or both. In both examples, though, the relief could be cut-short by high blood pressure (in the case of the snacks) and cancer (linked to smoking).

While it more than likely is no longer true that teens who smoke are parented by smokers, it once was largely a given: Non-smoking parents, back in the whimsical ‘day’, often abstained for either religious or deeply-held health reasons.

Still, it is interesting to note, as Mintel did, while 35% of parents indulge in salty snacks apace with their kids, 73% of parents (vs. 55% of non-parents) support the contention that salty snack-eating is a stress reliever.

 

With 94 percent of Americans purchasing salty snacks and 13 percent replacing meals with them, Mintel research reveals that three quarters (74 percent) of consumers are interested in healthier salty snacking options. Along these lines, another three in five (61 percent) agree that salty snacks have too many artificial ingredients, while four in five (79 percent) find it important to be able to recognize the ingredients in salty snacks. What’s more, 58 percent of salty snack purchasers agree that it is important to buy salty snacks that contain only a few ingredients.

Despite interest in healthier options, taste trumps all when choosing salty snacks: three in five (62 percent) consumers agree that taste is more important than how healthy a salty snack is. In fact, a new flavor (38 percent) is the most influential purchasing factor for American salty snackers, along with spicy flavor (30 percent) and limited-edition/seasonal flavor (22 percent). Taste remains a key purchase factor as consumers tend to view snacking as a guilty pleasure (69 percent) and indulge in salty snacking as a way to reward themselves (63 percent).

However, taste and health are not polarizing Americans, as four in five (82 percent) consumers agree that salty snacks can be both healthy and tasty.

“Consumption of salty snacks is largely driven by emotion, including stress and boredom. Consumers are looking for ways to manage their wellbeing, and the impact of food on emotional and mental health is becoming more important. Our research reveals this is especially true among parents, with the majority agreeing that salty snacks relieve stress,” said Amanda Topper, Senior Food Analyst at Mintel. “Not only do parents’ hectic lifestyles force them to snack while on the go, but the majority who buy salty snacks agree that snacking throughout the day is a healthy alternative to regular meals. Brands that highlight health and wellness benefits can appeal to parents that are often buying snacks that can be consumed by themselves and their children.”

“Striking a balance between good tasting and good for you is key for salty snack brands. While consumers are concerned about ingredients and express interest in seeing healthier options on shelves, they still want to indulge, and flavor is a highly motivating factor. Brands that focus on products with bold, new flavors that incorporate simple ingredients will offer the best of both worlds to consumers,” continued Topper.

With consumers looking to balance simplicity and indulgence, meat snacks are driving the salty snacks category, comprising 30 percent of retail sales. From 2010-15, sales of meat snacks grew faster than any other segment (55 percent), benefiting from consumers who are looking for fewer ingredients and healthy options. Mintel research indicates that consumers are more likely to look for no artificial ingredients (22%), organic (17 percent) and high protein (33 percent) claims on meat snacks than any other salty snack.

Overall, the salty snacks category grew 29 percent from 2010-15, reaching $10.2 billion, with sales projected to climb an additional 22 percent to $12.4 billion in 2020.

“Recent innovations in flavor and format have helped to spur sales of meat snacks, which are largely perceived as a natural snack food with clean ingredients. Future growth of the burgeoning meat snacks segment, and the salty snacks category overall, will hinge on brands continuing to identify and adapt to consumers’ better-for-you interests and remain transparent in the ingredients they are adding and removing from snacks,” concluded Topper.

 

 

FDA Encouraging Sharp Cut in Salt In Packaged, Restaurant Foods

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this past week issued “long-awaited proposed guidelines targeting packaged foods and restaurant meals that contain the bulk of American’s daily sodium intake,” a voluntary approach that is part of the Obama administration’s ongoing effort “to push the food industry toward reducing the amount of ingredients such as sugar and some fats in an effort to improve consumer health and reduce medical costs,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
The story says that “the FDA wants to cut individual daily salt intake to 2,300 milligrams over the next decade from a current average of about 3,400 milligrams. It is targeting 150 categories of food, including soups, deli meats, bakery products, snacks and pizza, and officials said consumers have struggled to reduce their intake because most of it is added before it reaches the table … The voluntary salt targets are to be phased-in. The rules as currently proposed give manufacturers two years to begin cutting sodium levels in products, and up to 10 years to make further cuts. The longer time period is intended to recognize the time it takes to develop new foods products, the FDA said.”
According to the Journal, “The Grocery Manufacturers Association, a trade group, estimated that it would take six to 18 months and cost $500,000 to $700,000 to reformulate a product with less salt to meet the guidelines, assuming alternatives were available.”
Meanwhile, in a related story, the Gothamist reports that a New York State appeals court has lifted an injunction that prevented the New York City Board of Health from enforcing a sodium labeling law.
The story says that beginning next Monday (June 6), “any chain restaurant in New York City that operates 15 or more locations in the United States is subject to the law, which requires them to mark dishes that exceed the Board’s recommendation for daily sodium intake with an icon of a salt shaker inside a triangular warning sign.”

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Unfortunately, the food industry has brought the need for such guidelines on itself, by so substantially – and unnecessarily – boosting the sodium content of countless products in the name of either taste-enhancing or improving shelf (and pantry) life.

I happen to be uncommonly sensitive to salt in food. I do nearly all the cooking in my house, and only very rarely do I add any salt to anything. And there are a great many places (including nearly every fast food chain) that I refuse to patronize because of their salt use practices.

Among other things, too much salt in one’s food can contribute to high blood pressure, water retention and, not by chance, weight gain.

In reporting on the new FDA proposed guidelines, The New York Times noted that Americans eat almost 50 percent more sodium than what most experts recommend. Regarding its link to high pressure, “a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke,” The Times quoted the FDA as saying “one in three Americans have high blood pressure; For African-Americans, it is one in two.”

The FDA said Americans eat about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day, well above the 2,300 recommended. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), a decrease in sodium intake by as little as 400 milligrams a day could prevent 32,000 heart attacks and 20,000 strokes annually.

While there has been some scientific controversy over how much to reduce sodium, scientists at the FDA said the health advantages are beyond dispute.

Nuts (For) You!

 

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Tree nuts such as walnuts, almonds and pecans are hailed for their health-offering content. But guess what? Peanuts, which literally cost ‘peanuts’ compared to tree nuts, offer essentially the same health-promoting benefits, according to a study published recently online at JAMA Internal Medicine, a journal of the American Medical Association.

Daniel Pendick, former Executive Editor of Harvard Men’s Health Watch, took a look at that study – as you can, here – and reported that its findings should be good news for peanut lovers who’ve tended to avoid them, and perhaps some other nuts, because of their high fat content. The study, he said, “puts the humble peanut squarely in the same nutritional league as its upscale cousins.”

That means, in short, that the health benefits of nut-eating – including better heart health and a good chance you’ll live longer than if you don’t eat nuts – are as accessible to people with limited budgets as they are to folks whose tastes (and budgets) run to cashews, or walnuts, or almonds.

How can that be? In part, says Dr. Meir Stampfer, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, because “botanically, peanuts are not nuts, but nutritionally they are very similar to tree nuts, and other studies have shown their benefits” to be much the same as their higher-priced nut-named ‘cousins’.

The major difference between these two types of edibles, according to the cleverly-named website differencesbetween.net, in that “nuts grow on trees whereas peanuts grow underground. Nuts also are called tree nuts, and peanuts are legumes.”

The comparative description continues on that site: “According to botany, a nut is a shell-covered fruit of a plant or tree. The inner part in the hard shell is called kernel which is edible. The nut is hard, one-seeded or at the most may have two seeds would not split open to scatter its seeds when matured. On the other hand, the peanut pods have multiple seeds found in a single legume. It is easy to split open to scatter its seeds when matured. Nuts are ‘indehiscent’ – their ‘pod doesn’t split open when ripe – “whereas legumes are ‘dehiscent’.” The latter term means, “A bursting open or splitting along natural or sutured lines – the spontaneous opening at maturity of a plant structure, such as a fruit, anther, or sporangium, to release its contents,” as peanuts are prone to do, according to dictionary.com.

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So, while peanuts, as legumes, are more closely related to soybeans and lentils than to almonds and walnuts, like tree nuts, they can be eaten as a filling snack or as a protein-boosting ingredient in many salads and other dishes; An ounce a day of nuts — roughly a quarter cup or a small handful — is a generally healthy portion, Pendick reported.

Peanuts actually are considered ‘safer’ that tree nuts for people (such as me) whose diets are restricted because they suffer from CKD – Chronic Kidney Disease. As is the case for ‘ordinary’ eaters, though, the portion size should be limited.

And as for the fat issue, raw peanuts, which is seldom the consumption style of choice, contain close to 18 g of fat per a 36.5 g, .25 cup, serving. But look at what else they contain in the vitamins and minerals section of the (just cited) chart on the whfoods.com website! (Keep in mind that cooked peanuts – often boiled in oil of some kind or, among other production options, dry-roasted  – pick up extra fat during such processing.

Nevertheless, Dr. Stampfer says, “compared with other ‘health foods,’ nuts and peanuts have some pretty compelling evidence behind them. Even if you don’t like nuts, it would still be a good idea to eat a handful every day,” he declares.

The JAMA Internal Medicine study looked at nut and peanut consumption in two large groups of people spanning geographic, racial, ethnic, and income boundaries:

  • 72,000 Americans, ages 40 to 79, living in 12 Southern states. Most lived on low incomes and two-thirds were African American.
  • 135,000 men and women in Shanghai, China, ages 40 to 74.

The researchers used surveys to tally nut and peanut consumption. They followed the groups for several years and counted how many participants died and from what causes. In the U.S. Southern states group, those who regularly ate peanuts were 21% less likely to have died of any cause over a period of about five years. In the Chinese groups, who were followed for six to 12 years, the death rate in nut-eaters was 17% lower.

For all the groups, the researchers accounted for unhealthy influences like smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes, which were especially common in the Southern states group.

The diversity of the participants in this new study is important. Those in the earlier Harvard studies were mostly white health professionals who were more educated and earned higher incomes than most people in the Southern states group. And in studies that just observe large groups of people over time and what they eat, such as the Harvard studies, scientists can’t be certain whether any health improvements have more to do with the participants’ lifestyles or genes rather than what the food is doing. Seeing the same health benefit across diverse groups can be reassuring.

Mintel: Canadians Getting More ‘Foreign Food’ Curious

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A new report from the Mintel marketing intelligence organization says that as immigration continues to drive Canada’s population growth, the established population is increasing seeking to experience cultures beyond their own by sampling ‘foreign’ foods.

Many Canadians had an opportunity to do that multiple times in a single day, as I did, at Expo ’67 in Montreal. Some fine examples of the cuisines of a multitude of countries were there to be enjoyed, and may have something to do with the fact that, long before the recent Mintel survey, Canadians there and elsewhere in that country were able to find restaurants serving specialties from such countries as Italy, France, Greece and China.

Having had the ill fortune of experiencing Chinese food in both Montreal and Vancouver, even though I did so in both places some years ago, I would not encourage anyone who’s experienced that cuisine either in New York City or its homeland to ‘give it a go’ in Canada. (Nor would I recommend ordering lobster in a Montreal restaurant – but that’s a tale (no pun intended) for another day.)

England was for many years generally considered, by other-that-British folk, to offer little appealing in its ‘local’ cuisine (wherever in the country you ate), and many felt it offered little better in ‘foreign’ restaurants.

Since I resided in the Greater London area for six years in the 1970’s-‘80’s, and traveled widely around the country during that time, I have protested mightily that England does, in fact, offer up some amazing good food in various kinds of ‘domestic’ restaurants, from local workingman’s ‘caf’s to top-of-the-line places such as Claridge’s, where my friends and I sat once next to Michael Caine as he and his mother enjoyed lunch.  And London’s ‘foreign’ offerings, from some excellent Greek, Italian, French and Indian restaurants, rival their counterparts in their home countries – and the only one of the above-mentioned I haven’t visited is India.

(Yes, London does have some decent Chinese restaurants, and Thai ones, and no doubt many other types. But I don’t give high marks to many of the former, and haven’t sampled the latter. My best Chinese foods experiences in London were when I was in a party led by a Chinese woman. She not only knew where to go, but also what to order. Thanks, Linda, for introducing me to dim sum!)

I don’t mean to lump Canadians, as many tend to do regarding so-called Millennials, into an amorphous mass, but I’ve never thought of them – either of those ‘groups’, actually – as being particularly curious or adventurous, where food is concerned. Eating seems to almost be an afterthought, something that mixes well with the lively conversations Canadians clearly enjoy when seated around tables conveniently fitted out with food.

As for their recent trend to sample, to a greater or lesser degree, types of food enjoyed by people in far-flung parts of the world, I strongly encourage them to keep it up.

When I was in Kosovo, long before most of the world had heard of what then was an Autonomous Province of Serbia, even though my government-hosted party was being well feted twice a day (for a total of close to four hours, between lunch and dinner, and you don’t want to think about how much wine we were expected to consume!), I still made it a point to venture out and sample some ‘authentic, ethnic’ local food from a street-side vendor. That’s the kind of thing the locals tended to eat, as opposed to the ‘regional specialties’ provided (twice a day, for five days!) to a ‘distinguished group’ of foreign journalists traveling around a relatively small area, visiting vineyards and sampling wine. (It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it!)

I live in a small town in Virginia. There is one pretty-good restaurant here plus an assortment of fast feeders, a pitifully poor example of a Chinese eat-in/take-out place, an almost-as-bad Japanese place, and a few Mexican restaurants.

The chef-owner of the pretty-good place employs an Italian theme, and patterns his creations largely on Italian originals. But he is Moroccan, and confidently introduces something of his beyond-Italian self and training into many of his dishes. My wife and I dine there often, usually scoring at least one meal’s worth of take-home each time.

My cook-at-home options are ingredient-limited: Neither Walmart nor Food Lion, a southeast U.S. chain, enables an adventurous cook, which I sometimes try to be, to stretch much beyond the bare basics, ingredient-wise. For better fare, I need to drive close to 30 miles to an obscure ‘Oriental grocer’ or a Kroger store. The latter is, compared to what’s in my town, Food Heaven. But even there it’s hard to get a decent cut of lamb, or broccoli rabe, or some of the other items so readily available in at least some major U.S. cities.

Young Canadians are probably as or more adventurous than young Americans when it comes to trying to experience other cultures through travel. And I’ve admittedly not made a practice of observing what Canadian tourists eat when I encounter them. (Many for a long time were easily identifiable as Canadian through the Maple Leaf emblems on their backpacks!)

But I honestly can’t recall encountering any obviously-Canadian people in restaurants beyond their own country. Clearly, as tourists, they ate something, somewhere, and it’s more than likely that, as the Canadians I did encounter tended to be backpackers, their eating-out budgets were on a par with mine: Conservative, to say the least! So some of them more than likely sampled cuisines ‘foreign’ to them – and, a decade or two or so, which some of them may have come to long for, when back home. Alas, many of those ‘foreign’ tastes were locally unavailable across the width and breadth of that great country. Could that have helped spark the availability of ‘foreign’ foods for today’s Canadians to sample?

I think it’s great that, according to the Mintel study, three quarters (73 percent) of Canadian consumers like to experience other cultures through food. What’s more, nearly three in five (57 percent) Canadians are more open to trying ethnic foods now than they were a few years ago, as the majority (72 percent) of consumers turn to ethnic-inspired dishes to break the monotony at mealtime.

Ethnic-inspired foods such as Chinese (89 percent), Italian (84 percent) and Latin American/Mexican (82 percent) are the most commonly eaten by Canadians, however some less prominent dishes are also being sought out.

In fact, while just 20 percent of Canadians have tried African-inspired food, half (50 percent) are interested in doing so. Similarly, though just one third (32 percent) of consumers have eaten Southeast Asian food, 44 percent are interested in trying a Southeast Asian dish.

But the sad news is, a sizable minority of consumers are hesitant to create such dishes at home: 61 percent of consumers generally try ethnic-inspired foods at restaurants before preparing them at home. Further, more than one third (36 percent) of consumers agree that making ethnic foods is intimidating, with two in five (38 percent) agreeing that it is difficult finding ingredients to make ethnic inspired dishes.

Consider this, Canadians, Americans and others interested in trying to prepare ‘foreign’ foods you’ve experienced in a restaurant: Those places get their ingredients from somewhere – somewhere not a whole great distance from you.

My area is challenging, in this respect, yet I am able to find a good many of the raw materials I want when I set out to try creating a Thai dish, or an Indian one, for example. (The lamb issue continues to cause me consternation, though!)

And I cheat, when I want Indian food, which my wife finds too spicy: I stock up on prepared – boil-in-the-bag – Indian foods when we go visit her son or mother in North Carolina. These are, while a far cry from what you’d get in a good Indian restaurant – and the nearest one of those is 60 or more miles from here – it helps satisfy my cravings for the magical spice combinations Indians have developed for their dishes.

Anyone who is averse to sampling ‘different’ foods – domestic or foreign – is doing themselves a disservice.

Exercise Can Cut Risks For At Least 13 Cancer Types

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The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has released results of a study on the relationship between physical activity and the onset of assorted kinds of cancer. The study involved researchers at the NCI and the American Cancer Institute and included reviews of data accumulated in numerous studies in the U.S. and Europe.

An NCI press release said the new study’s findings “confirm and extend the evidence for a benefit of physical activity on cancer risk and support its role as a key component of population-wide cancer prevention and control efforts.”

In short – and, as you’d expect, the findings hardly are that – it was discovered that “greater levels of leisure-time physical activity were associated with a lower risk of developing 13 different types of cancer; The risk of developing seven cancer types was 20 percent (or more) lower among the most active participants (90th percentile of activity) as compared with the least active participants (10th percentile of activity),” according to the NCI press release.

It noted that the study was led by Steven C. Moore, Ph.D., NCI, and colleagues, with their findings appearing May 16, 2016, in JAMA Internal Medicine.

While hundreds of previous studies have examined associations between physical activity and cancer risk and shown reduced risks for colon, breast, and endometrial cancers, results have been inconclusive for most cancer types due to small numbers of participants in the studies.

This new study pooled data on 1.44 million people, ages 19 to 98, and was able to examine a broad range of cancers, including rare malignancies. Participants were followed for a median of 11 years during which 187,000 new cases of cancer occurred.

The investigators confirmed that leisure-time physical activity, as assessed by self-reported surveys, was associated with a lower risk of colon, breast, and endometrial cancers. They also determined that leisure-time physical activity was associated with a lower risk of 10 additional cancers, with the greatest risk reductions for esophageal adenocarcinoma, liver cancer, cancer of the gastric cardia, kidney cancer, and myeloid leukemia.

Myeloma and cancers of the head and neck, rectum, and bladder also showed reduced risks that were significant, but not as strong. Risk was reduced for lung cancer, but only for current and former smokers; the reasons for this are still being studied.

“Leisure-time physical activity is known to reduce risks of heart disease and risk of death from all causes, and our study demonstrates that it is also associated with lower risks of many types of cancer,” said Dr. Moore. “Furthermore, our results support that these associations are broadly generalizable to different populations, including people who are overweight or obese, or those with a history of smoking. Health care professionals counseling inactive adults should promote physical activity as a component of a healthy lifestyle and cancer prevention.”

Leisure-time physical activity is defined as exercise done at one’s own discretion, often to improve or maintain fitness or health. Examples include walking, running, swimming, and other moderate to vigorous intensity activities.

The median level of activity in the study was about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week, which is comparable to the current recommended minimum level of physical activity for the U.S. population.

There are a number of mechanisms through which physical activity could affect cancer risk. It has been hypothesized that cancer growth could be initiated or abetted by three metabolic pathways that are also affected by exercise: sex steroids (estrogens and androgens); insulin and insulin-like growth factors; and proteins involved with both insulin metabolism and inflammation. Additionally, several non-hormonal mechanisms have been hypothesized to link physical activity to cancer risk, including inflammation, immune function, oxidative stress, and, for colon cancer, a reduction in time that it takes for waste to pass through the gastrointestinal tract.

Most associations between physical activity and lower cancer risk changed little when adjusted for body mass index, suggesting that physical activity acts through mechanisms other than lowering body weight to reduce cancer risk.

Associations between physical activity and cancer were also similar in subgroups of normal weight and overweight participants, and in current smokers or people who never smoked.

The study was a large-scale effort of the Physical Activity Collaboration of NCI’s Cohort Consortium, which was formed to estimate physical activity and disease associations using pooled prospective data and a standardized analytical approach.

“For years, we’ve had substantial evidence supporting a role for physical activity in three leading cancers: colon, breast, and endometrial cancers, which together account for nearly one in four cancers in the United States,” said Alpa V. Patel, Ph.D., a co-author of the study from the American Cancer Society. “This study linking physical activity to 10 additional cancers shows its impact may be even more relevant, and that physical activity has far-reaching value for cancer prevention.”

Less Spuds, Less Days, Keeps Oncologists Away

 

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A recent Harvard study has shown that high consumption of potatoes – as few as four servings a week – might expose you to risks of higher blood pressure. Eating a single serving of spuds per month could, the study says, significantly lower your high blood pressure risk.

And it not just the consumption of potatoes that counts: It’s how they are prepared. Baked, boiled and mashed potatoes are the ‘least risky’, exposing you to ‘only’ an 11% greater risk of high blood pressure, but eating spuds that have been fried raises your HBP risk 17%. Oddly, potato chips, which usually are either fried or baked, don’t seem to affect your blood pressure, even though the extra fat they contain does present other health issues.

The study was led by Dr. Lea Borgi, of the renal division at Boston’s Brigham and Woman’s Hospital. She and her colleagues tracked the potato consumption of more than 187,000 men and women who had participated in three studies over a period of 20 years. During each of those studies, participants tracked their consumption of various foods on questionnaires. When the studies began, none of the participants were found to have high blood pressure – but some could, of course, have developed it for other reasons during the time they were diet-monitoring.

At least one dietitian not involved with the new study – Samantha Heller, a senior clinician at New York City’s New York Medical Center – has said potatoes may be less to blame than are the assorted things people heap on potatoes. Things such as butter (which is high in fat), or catsup (high in sugar), and, among other things, bacon bits (high it sodium as well as fat).

A far healthier alternative topping than most, my favorite, is a sprinkle of olive oil topped by however much cumin you’re comfortable with. Cumin is said to aid in digestion, improve immunity and treat piles,insomnia, respiratory disorders, asthmabronchitis, common cold, lactation, anemia, skin disorders, boils and cancer, according to the website organicfacts.com.

HealthDay quoted Dr. Borgi as saying potatoes have a higher glycemic index, which measures how carbohydrates raise blood sugar, than most other vegetables, and a high glycemic index could help explain her study’s findings.

Borgi pointed out that this study didn’t prove potatoes cause high blood pressure, only that they seem to be associated with an increased risk. Nevertheless, she and her team suggested that replacing one serving a day of potatoes with a non-starchy vegetable might lower the risk of high blood pressure.

Because of their high potassium content, potatoes have recently been included as vegetables in the U.S. government’s healthy meals program, the researchers noted.

But the inclusion of potatoes in the U.S. government’s healthy meals program doesn’t mean that, despite warnings from nephrologists and dieticians working with kidney patients suggest the latter should be able to consume potatoes like individuals without troubled or diseased kidneys.

The potassium they contain can pose a risk for kidney disease sufferers, because they need to carefully control their potassium levels, and eating potatoes – unless they have been soaked for some time in water that will leach out that mineral – is something they should avoid doing, more than a tiny bit, anyway.

Potatoes have been a staple in human diets for centuries, long before high blood pressure was the problem it is today.

Heller noted that, “Americans ate, on average, close to 50 pounds of potatoes per person in 2013, the bulk of which came from french fries, As a dietitian, I am not sure I can even classify commercial french fries as potatoes. They have been transformed into sticks of grease, salt, trans fats and who knows what else,” she said.

Borgi added, “Our findings have potentially important public health ramifications, as they don’t support the health benefits of including potatoes in government food programs.”

Developments concerning food — from research to farm to factory to restaurants and home.