FOOD BITES: OCTOBER 2017

U.S. Obesity Rates Begin to Level

After years of increasing, adult obesity rates remained stable in 45 states from 2015 to 2016, according to a new report from the Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit health advocacy organization, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropic organization that funds health research.

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FOOD BITES: SEPTEMBER 2017

Tomatoes No Longer Considered ‘Poison Apples’

Originating in Mesoamerica, tomatoes were part of the Aztecs’ diet as early as 700 A.D., but they weren’t grown in Britain until the 1590s. First arriving in southern Europe in the early 16th century via Spanish conquistadors returning from Mesoamerica, the tomato was considered a “poison apple”

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FOOD BITES: DECEMBER 2017

Milk Proteins Make Edible  Wrapping

To create an all-around better packaging solution, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is developing environmentally friendly film made of the milk protein casein to wrap meats, cheese and other food items. “The protein-based films are powerful oxygen blockers that help prevent food spoilage,”

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FOOD BITES: OCTOBER 2017

U.S. Obesity Rates Begin to Level


After years of increasing, adult obesity rates remained stable in 45 states from 2015 to 2016, according to a new report from the Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit health advocacy organization, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropic organization that funds health research. Rates increased in just four states – Colorado, Minnesota, Washington and West Virginia – and decreased in Kansas. While this is good news, Americans cannot become complacent about obesity. “Obesity rates are still far too high, but the progress we’ve seen in recent years is real and it’s encouraging,” said Dr. Richard E. Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in a statement. Since 2010, no state has had an obesity rate below 20 percent. In 2016, five states had an obesity rate above 35 percent; 20 states had an obesity rate between 30 percent and 35 percent; 22 states had an obesity rate between 25 percent and 30 percent; and three states had an obesity rate between 22 percent and 25 percent. The obesity rate was highest in West Virginia, where 37.7 percent of the population is obese. Colorado had the lowest rate at 22.3 percent. Kentucky was in the second to worst category at 30 percent.

Hunter-Gatherer Gut Microbes Show What We’re Missing


The gut microbiome play a vital role in not just how people digest food, but also in their overall physical, mental and emotional health. The microbiome set metabolism rates, regulate weight and moderate the immune system, to name a few functions they influence. Recently, scientists have been exploring whether the wrong balance of microbial populations might be partly responsible for the rise in some modern chronic diseases, such as obesity and irritable bowel syndrome. A group led by microbiologist Justin Sonnenburg of Stanford University studied the gut microbiome in one of the most preindustrial examples available: the Hadza people of Tanzania. The Hadza are one of the last groups of humans living a traditional, nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle, as all humans once did tens of thousands of years ago. The scientists found the Hadza have a far more diverse gut microbiome than Americans, and the types of gut bacteria vary greatly in number because the Hadza alter their diet from season to season. The study, published Aug. 25 in the journal Science, supports the common theory that a person’s diet strongly dictates the diversity of the gut microbiome, and people living in the industrialized world have a far less vibrant gut microbiome

that may adversely affect their health. During the wet season, the Hadza forage for berries and honey; during the dry season, they hunt game such as antelope. They also eat fiber-rich tubers and the fruit of the baobab tree year round, but no farmed nor processed foods. The scientific team took stool samples from nearly 190 Hadza people over a period of about 18 months. Bacteria species present in stool samples collected in the dry season all but disappeared in the wet season, but returned in the next dry season. In addition to this greater diversity and change per season, the Hadza have many bacteria species Americans lack. “It’s as if something about modern society is causing the disappearance of microbial gut species,” the researchers said at a press conference. Dietary fiber may be a key component: The Hadza consume upwards of 5.3 ounces of fiber daily – 10 times more than what Americans consume on average. Although it’s not known if the Hadza microbiome protects against chronic diseases, Sonnenburg says “many arrows” point in that direction.

ANGELA S. HOOVER

Angela is a staff writer for Health & Wellness magazine.

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