Saturday, February 23, 2008

Educational Use of the ABC's of Fruits & Vegetables and Beyond

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A number of school districts and organizations have bought the book in quantity for use for educational and library use.

We thank Brenda Harper for sending us this photo - as seasoned authors we were very moved to see our book actually affecting future generations.

Here Brenda reads from "The ABC's of Fruits and Vegetables and Beyond" to a class in a Humboldt County California elementary school. As the Consumer Education Coordinator for the North Coast Co-op in Arcata, California she presents nutrition lessons to 84 classrooms in 11 schools each month. She wrote to us that "The students loved hearing this book read aloud and it became the springboard for the month’s nutrition lesson."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Artificial Sweeteners Linked to Weight Gain

Artificial Sweeteners Linked to Weight Gain

We recently went to dinner with a friend and were taken aback when she shook a packet of Sweet & Low into her water during the meal. When I saw this new study linking artificial sweeteners to weight gain, it once again affirmed what has been alluded to in many previous studies over the years: Cutting the connection between sweets and calories may confuse the body, making it harder to regulate intake.

According to the study, new laboratory evidence indicates that the widespread use of no-calorie sweeteners may actually make it harder for people to control their food intake and as a result, body weight. Psychologists at Purdue University’s Ingestive Behavior Research Center reported that relative to rats that ate yogurt sweetened with glucose (a simple sugar with 15 calories/teaspoon), rats given yogurt sweetened with zero-calorie saccharin later consumed more calories, gained more weight, put on more body fat, and didn’t make up for it by cutting back later.

The researchers theorized that by breaking the connection between a sweet sensation and high-calorie food, the use of saccharin changes the body’s ability to regulate intake. Problems with self-regulation might explain in part why the rise in obesity has paralleled the use of artificial sweeteners. It also might explain why scientific consensus on human use of artificial sweeteners is inconclusive, with various studies finding evidence of weight loss, weight gain or little effect. It seems that experience (i.e. repeated exposure) plays a role in this phenomenon. Because people may have different “experiences” with artificial and natural sweeteners, human studies that don’t take into account prior consumption may produce a variety of outcomes.

“The data clearly indicate that consuming a food sweetened with no-calorie saccharin can lead to greater body-weight gain and adiposity than would consuming the same food sweetened with a higher-calorie sugar,” the authors wrote.

The authors acknowledge that this may seem counterintuitive and won’t come as welcome news to human clinical researchers and health-care practitioners, who have long recommended low- or no-calorie sweeteners (and certainly not to dieters who have followed their advice!). What’s more, the data come from rats, not humans. However, they noted that their findings match emerging evidence that people who drink more diet drinks are at higher risk for obesity and metabolic syndrome, a collection of medical problems such as abdominal fat, high blood pressure and insulin resistance that put people at risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Why would a sugar substitute backfire? Swithers and Davidson (the study authors) wrote that sweet foods provide a “salient orosensory stimulus” that strongly predicts someone is about to take in a lot of calories. Ingestive and digestive reflexes gear up for that intake, but when false sweetness isn’t followed by calories, the system gets confused. Thus, people may eat more or expend less energy than they otherwise would.

Based on the lab’s findings, other artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and acesulfame K, which also taste sweet but don’t delivery the predicted calories, could have similar effects.

Hopefully, my friend will read this blog and find a more effective way to manage her weight in the future.

Source: “A Role for Sweet Taste: Calorie Predictive Relations in Energy Regulation by Rats,” Susan E. Swithers, PhD and Terry L. Davidson, PhD, Purdue University; Behavioral Neuroscience, Vol. 122, No. 1. The entire article is available online

-- Nikki

Friday, February 1, 2008

Interesting Eats around Deerfield Beach

Interesting Eats around Deerfield Beach, Florida

Dining in Florida is often what I describe as a “mall” experience. Although I know that great restaurants can be located in malls, the ambiance has always bothered me.

Recently, cruising along Federal Hwy in Deerfield Beach, I spied a small strip of stores with a Turkish American Deli at one end and an “Italian Wine Bistro” with the unlikely name Hot Tomatoe (it’s their spelling, not mine) at the other end. It was early afternoon, the restaurant was closed, and there was no menu outside. We walked around the market, which has a few casual tables for diners and a nice selection of prepared Middle Eastern specialties, including vegetarian lentil soup, the usual dips, grape leaves, feta cheese rolls, lentil balls (a cousin to falafel), and such. There is also a case of enticing desserts, including Noah’s Pudding, “a mixture of what Noah had on his ship; dried fruits, walnut, currants and more…”

A few nights later, we decided to see what Hot Tomatoe had to offer. Inside the unassuming storefront exterior is a comfortable dining room and an extremely welcoming and congenial staff. Executive chef/owner Elsa Addario greeted us and when we asked about vegetarian options, she was more than accommodating. She enthusiastically suggested we try the homemade whole wheat, organic rigatoni, the vegetarian pasta fazool soup, and offered to mix and match according to our preferences. The homemade hot Italian bread was tasty (and sometimes they claim to do a whole wheat version). We each ordered an eggplant dish (parmesan and rollatini) with a side of the whole wheat pasta. By the end of the meal, we knew we would return to focus on the pasta.

N.B. At our second visit, the pasta machine had broken so there was no whole wheat rigatoni. (The pasta dishes we ordered were nonetheless exceptional.) Elsa was experimenting with whole wheat linguini and hoping to have a new machine soon.

If you are in Deerfield Beach:

Turkish American Deli
604 S. Federal Hwy.
M-F 9-8, Sat-Sun 10-6

Hot Tomatoe
626 S. Federal Hwy.
Daily 5:30-10 (10:30 F & Sat)

Happy Trails...Nikki