September 29, 2010

More Matters Month

September is "Fruits & Vegetables - More Matters Month." Too bad Americans' fruit and vegetable intake doesn't seem to care.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control says that not one US state met the Healthy People 2010 Objectives for fruit and vegetable consumption in 2000-2009. The 2010 Objectives aim for increasing to: 
  • 75% the proportion of Americans aged 2+ who eat two or more servings of fruit and increasing to
  • 50% the proportion of Americans aged 2+ who eat three or more servings of vegetables a day
You can check out what percentage of your state ate 2+ servings of fruit or 3+ servings of vegetables per day by looking at the CDC report tables listed here.

September 28, 2010

Pom(pous) Wonderful Takes a Hit

The Federal Trade Commission filed a formal complaint this week charging the makers of PomWonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice and a related line of supplements with grossly exaggerating the health benefits of their products. 

While it is no secret that PomWonderful has been self-funding the "$34 million in medical research" supporting pomegranate health benefits - apparently they crossed the line with a number of unsubstantiated health claims in publications like Parade, Fitness, Prevention and the New York Times, - namely that PomWonderful:
  • Causes a 30% decrease in arterial plaque formation
  • Slowed PSA doubling time by 350% in subjects with advanced prostate cancer
  • ...and most shockingly - is 40% as effective as Viagra!
PomWonderful claims have traditionally circled around the fruit's "antioxidant" properties. But not surprisingly, all fruits and many vegetables contain antioxidants. Antioxidants neutralize reactive oxygen molecules and prevent cell damage - so they're good for you; but not so good you need to spend $4 on a bulbous bottle of unnecessarily refrigerated pomegranate juice. 

Beta carotene (a vitamin A precursor), vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium are antioxidants that are widespread in fruits and vegetables - although the extend to which antioxidants play a role in human disease prevention is not entirely understood. If you're fortunate to find pomegranate in its original form - the seeds are an excellent source of dietary fiber. One half cup has 3.5 grams of fiber in only 75 calories. 

But really - there's nothing magical about the pomegranate - except that the founder, Lynda Resnick, inherited a piece of property that had pomegranates growing on it and she wisely parlayed it into a multi-million dollar empire. She also acquired Fiji Water in 2004 - so, overly-priced commodity items packaged in fancy bottles is kind of her forte!

Kudos to the FTC for jumping in where the FDA falls flat. The PomWonderful complaint comes on the heels of an earlier FTC investigation on Kellogg's "Immunity" claims plastered across their kids' cereals like Rice Krispies and Frosted Mini Wheats. 

To read the FTC's PomWonderful complaint - click here. PomWonderful's response ("Stop Persecuting Pomegranates") is here.

September 11, 2010

Novel Fiber Growth Set to Grow by 750% in Coming Years

Interest in fiber is on the evidenced by more than the fact that you are reading a fiber blog!

In their new report Fiber Food Ingredients in the US: Soluble-, Insoluble- and Digestive-Resistant Types market research firm Packaged Fact predicts that novel fibers - which maintained a 5% market share in 2004 - will make up 39% by 2014.

In the US, the soluble fiber market is expected to experience the most growth. According to Nutra's review of the same report:
  • The fiber market in the US was worth $193 million in 2004
  • $176 million (91%) of that was from insoluble fiber and $16.6 million (9%) was from soluble
  • The report authors predict growth in the US to surpass $470 million by 2011 (a 240% increase in just 7 years)
  • The soluble fiber portion of the market is expected to increase significantly compared to insoluble fiber
Other industry watch-dogs predict continued growth and interest in fiber, with an increase in novel fibers expected to lead the way. Novel fibers include soluble fibers like inulin, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), galactooligosaccharides (GOS), soluble corn fiber and other resistant fibers like resistant maltodextrin - all of which are increasingly being added to processed foods, and some of which lead to unpleasant GI side effects, as covered in a previous post

While the rise in interest in dietary fiber is promising, the focus on added fibers in processed and packaged foods at the expense of ignoring naturally-occurring sources leaves room for concern.

September 9, 2010

How do Prunes Alleviate Constipation?

What food comes to mind when you think of alleviating constipation? 


Is it the fiber? 

Surprisingly, no. 

Prunes - which are now euphemistically called "dried plums" - have some fiber, about 8 grams per 1 cup of pitted plums; but their famous "laxation effect" comes from sorbitol, a naturally occurring sugar alcohol which you find also added to sugar-free candy, sugar-free chocolate and other sugar-free foods that can yield some nasty GI side effects.

Sorbitol absorbs water and makes foods heavier as they transit through your gut fighting and reversing constipation; the fiber in prunes helps - but it's the sorbitol doing most of the work. 

If you're interested in prunes and sorbitol, nationally syndicated nutrition columnist Ed Blonz just did a great article on the topic - you can check it out here. If you're not familiar with Blonz, don't be put off by his website - he is no graphic designer - but he is most certainly a very well-respected authority in nutrition science with a great knack for answering complicated nutrition questions in a straightforward and evidence-based manner!

The California Dried Plum Board has more information about the relationship between prunes and digestive health on their website

Branding Baby Carrots

The Baby Carrot industry is launching an all out campaign to promote their product as an alternative to junk food. The "Eat 'em Like Junk Food" effort will be out soon and includes TV spots, an interactive website, "Bunch of Carrot Farmer's" YouTube channel and junk food-like packaging. 

Baby carrot manufacturers are responding to a dip in sales and hope to re-brand their product as an "extreme" snacking alternative. Two seconds on their site - - and you'll be extremely annoyed with the theme "song"...but, the idea is to re-program the way you think about baby carrots.

Sure, it's hard to make carrots cool, but the baby carrot folks have a lot going for them. The fact that their industry even exists is based on a stroke of pure genius by California farmer Mike Yurosek: take unusable and unsellable nubs of bigger carrots and grind them down to finger-size "baby" carrots. You eliminate the most annoying part of eating carrots - the peeling - and you get to mark the price up because of the convenience you're affording your customers!

According to the USDA Nutrient Database, each medium-sized baby carrot has 0.3 grams of fiber - so every three baby carrots is about 1 gram of fiber and you would need 15 baby carrots to get a 5 gram serving - or roughly, 1/6 of your daily fiber needs.

Two-thirds of the baby carrots sold in the US are grown in Bakersfield, CA. And, The World Carrot Museum (that's right) has some more history on the baby carrot, available here

September 2, 2010

The Truth About Fiber from Eat This Not That!

Men's Health Magazine's "Eat This Not That!" has became a wildly successful weight loss entity. It's a widely circulated email newsletter, magazine feature and now features a string of best selling books with titles like "Cook This Not That" and "Eat This, Not That! for Kids!"

Today's email newsletter topic is "The Truth About Fiber" where the authors pose nine "True or False" statements about fiber. The nine mini-articles give answers that are based on information and data largely supported by the general nutrition community. 

There is however, one rather controversial topic where the Eat This Not That! authors take a unique approach to answering a much asked question - and one covered in a previous blog post: "How much fiber do you need per day?"

The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) Committee of the Institute of Medicine says males aged 50 and younger need 38 grams of dietary fiber per day (that's the highest of any age/gender group). But the Men's Health authors say that the 38 gram recommendation is bunk because it's based on three studies where the participants didn't even average as much as 38 grams per day. "In fact, people saw maximum benefits with a daily gram intake averaging from the high 20s to the low 30s."

It's important to point out that the DRI recommendation for fiber is what's called an "Adequate Intake" level, or AI recommendation. An AI is used when there's not enough data to set a "Recommended Dietary Allowance" level. RDAs are pretty solid and they are set when scientists are pretty certain that the amount of a nutrient they are recommending meets the needs of 98% of  people in that particular age and gender group. So, when there's not enough data for an RDA, they settle on AI, which is indicative of a lack of consensus, or really, a scientific shot in the dark.

Confusing? Yes. Bottom line: the average American eats only 14 grams of dietary fiber per day (Anderson et al., 2005). Regardless of whether you need fiber in the 20s, 30s or 38 grams per day - as a population, we're not eating enough. And despite the ubiquity of dietary fiber in our highly processed and packaged food environment, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes remain the most simple sources of dietary fiber for all populations - no matter how much you need per day.