FOOD BITES: MAY 2018

Food, Mood and Aging

Young and mature adults require different foods to improve their mental health, say researchers from the State University of New York at Binghampton. The researchers used an anonymous Internet survey, asking people around the world to complete the Food-Mood Questionnaire, which includes....

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FOOD BITES: JUNE 2018

Vegetables Harvested in Antarctica Without Sun, Soil or Pesticides

Scientists in Antarctica have harvested the first crop of vegetables grown without soil, daylight or pesticides as part of a project designed to help astronauts cultivate fresh food on other planets. Researchers at Germany’s Neumayer Station III say eight pounds of salad greens, 18 cucumbers and 70 radishes....

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FOOD BITES: JULY 2018

Magnesium Treats Depression

As little as 248 mg of magnesium per day leads to an astounding reversal of depression syndrome, according to research conducted at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont and published in the journal PLoS One in June 2017.

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FOOD BITES: AUGUST 2017

Lead Found in Baby Food

Detectable levels of lead were found in 20 percent of 2,164 baby food samples. Analyzing 11 years of federal data, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) found the toxic metal most commonly in fruit juices, root vegetables and teething biscuits and cookies. The organization focused on baby foods because lead can be detrimental to child development; even low levels of lead exposure can cause neurocognitive impairments and problems with attention, behavior, cognitive development and the cardiovascular and immune systems. Although the lead levels were relatively low, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no safe lead level for children. Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft report estimating more than 5 percent of children consume more than 6 micrograms of lead a day – the maximum daily intake limit set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993. The EPA report reveals food is the major source of lead exposure in two-thirds of toddlers. This inspired Tom Neltner, the EDF’s chemicals policy director, to examine data from the FDA’s Total Diet Study to find the food sources for the lead. Neltner found baby food varieties of apple juice, grape juice and carrots had detectable lead more often than regular varieties. He suspects processing plays a role in the contamination.

FDA and Aphrodisiacs

There is only one known aphrodisiac, and a few things can factor into its effectiveness. In addition to a placebo effect, some foods may help promote “sexy time” due to visual stimuli or status associated with them. Oysters have zinc, which can increase testosterone, but they’re no aphrodisiac. Chocolate increases serotonin but not the libido. Spanish fly, made from ground-up blister beetles, can cause an erection and urethra irritation. Eastern and Native American herbs are neither effective nor safe. Not even Viagra is a libido stimulant; it just causes erections. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) says there is no aphrodisiac and labeling anything as such is false advertising. The one and only aphrodisiac is the mind. Dancing is rare in the animal world because it is spontaneous, but humans are the lords of dance. Species that utilize vocal imitation, such as some parrots, cockatoos, California sea lions and Asian elephants, can learn to dance; all have been observed moving in rhythm to a beat. When people synchronize their motions through dancing, it raises endorphins and encourages social closeness. A study published in PLOS Genetics found two genes associated with creative dancing and linked them with the need for social communication.

Why Can Some People Tolerate Spicy Foods Better?

Scientists don’t know for sure why some people can tolerate spicy foods better than others, but three factors may be in play here. Some people may be born with less sensitivity to spiciness. Spiciness is detected by a sensory receptor called TRPV1, a little protein that opens up when molecules like capsaicin bind to it. Gene sequences that produce the TRPV1 protein vary from person to person, so certain versions of the receptor are more or less responsive than others. It may also matter how much a person uses his or her TRPV1 receptors. Researchers have documented a desensitizing effect that happens when someone eats a lot of capsaicin; the person must eat higher levels of it in order to taste a certain degree of spiciness. As people eat spicy food more regularly, they start to feel less of the burn. And lastly, some people may just like the burn.

ANGELA S. HOOVER

Angela is a staff writer for Health & Wellness magazine.

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