Posts Tagged ‘Food and Drug Administration’

For decades, controversy has persisted about the safety of non-caloric sweeteners (NCS). For many who attempt to lose or maintain weight, they are a god-send. Organizations, such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Diabetes Association, and American Heart Association, support their benefits in weight-loss. Through the years many artificial sweeteners, for example cyclamates, have come and gone. Today, the most recognizable NCS include pink packets of saccharin (Sweet’N Low®), blue packets of aspartame (Equal®), and yellow packets of sucralose (Splenda®).

The public’s first experience with artificial sweeteners began soon after the discovery of saccharin in the late 1880s. Its use became widespread during the sugar shortage of World War I. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of aspartame in 1981 and sucralose in 1998.

Periodically, groups or individuals claim that non-nutritive sweeteners cause harmful health conditions. A 12-week study in 2008 found that sucralose reduced helpful bacteria in the intestines and limited benefits of certain oral drugs in rats. More recent reports, many based on the 2008 research, state that sucralose is carcinogenic and alters blood-glucose. Numerous health professionals disagreed with the findings and claim that critical areas of the initial study were flawed.

Research published in September 2014 looked at potential health problems with the artificial sweeteners aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin. The study concluded that all three sweeteners may elevate blood-sugar levels in some people but not others, possibly release cancer-forming properties when heated, and affect helpful bacteria in the gastrointestinal track. However, even the researchers cautioned that their results were not conclusive enough to make recommendations on consumption of artificial sweeteners. That did not keep the media from spreading the word that non-nutritive sweeteners were unsafe. The “Food Insight” blog, published by the International Food Information Council Foundation, summarized what many nutrition professionals expressed about this study. The author, Matt Raymond, compared the research to “a big nothing-burger with an extra helping of skepticism. . . served up with warmed-over hysteria.” In other words, it was a sensational news story with little to no helpful information.

How do NCS affect weight? One study maintained that compared to sucrose (sugar), saccharin and aspartame caused more weight-gain. However, a review of numerous studies from 1976 to mid-2013 found that those on NCS lost more body weight than control groups who used regular-calorie sweeteners. Substituting non-nutritive sweeteners for sugars did not cause weight gain, and researchers concluded that they may prove helpful in weight loss or weight maintenance programs.

Are artificial sweeteners helpful or harmful? Most health professionals support using artificial sweeteners to help control weight. Until researchers conduct longer, more conclusive studies, enjoy your favorite artificially-sweetened foods with confidence you are safely consuming fewer calories.







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Shortly after the deadly foodborne illness outbreak in Europe, I attended a catered lunch at a conference. As I bit into my sandwich, I detected the distinct crunch and flavor of sprouts. Was this sandwich safe?

News was abuzz about the European outbreak—and rightfully so. Researchers attributed the cause of death for more than forty people to Escherichia coli (E.coli) in bean sprouts. The bacteria infected at least four U.S. travelers to Germany and caused the death of an elderly Arizona man.

E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks occur more often throughout the world than you may think. Many cases go undiagnosed because symptoms mimic other health problems. Typical signs include fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. Symptoms may occur twelve to seventy-two hours after ingestion of the tainted food and last from four to seven days. If the bacteria spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and other body sites, death can result unless promptly and appropriately treated. Those most susceptible are seniors, young children, and individuals with compromised immune systems.

Why are sprouts the culprit? Sprouts grow in a warm, humid environment, the same ideal conditions needed for bacterial growth. Unlike other raw fruits and vegetables, washing sprouts before eating may not help. Bacteria can cling to the surface of sprout seeds and grow inside the sprouts as well as outside.

Should you eat sprouts? Although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established guidelines for suppliers of sprouts, safety is not guaranteed, and they remain potentially hazardous. In 2009 and earlier years, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended consumers avoid raw sprouts. Consuming organically grown sprouts is even more risky. Researchers linked the contaminated sprouts in Europe to an organic farm in Germany. To elude this foodborne illness stay away from uncooked sprouts. Better yet, choose other healthy foods with less contamination risk.

 Reference: CDC Median Relations:
Sprouts: Not a Healthy Food for Everyone. http://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/r990809.htm

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Have you heard? January 16 – 22, 2011 is Healthy Weight Week. This event celebrates healthy non-diet lifestyles to prevent eating disorders and weight problems. Healthy Weight Week encourages people to improve health habits by eating well, living actively, and feeling good about themselves. This 18th  annual event, directed by Francie M. Berg of the Healthy Weight Network, features two awards: 

  • The Healthy Body Image Award aims at prevention of eating disorders and body dissatisfaction. It primarily targets school-aged students and addresses the widespread and difficult to treat problems of anorexia.
  • The “Rid the World of Fad Diets and Gimmicks Day” features the Slim Chance Awards.Winners of these worst  weight-loss promotions and products of 2010 were announced in December 2010.

Worst gimmick: Lapex BCS Lipo Laser promises a 3 ½ to 7 inches loss of fat in 3 weeks without going on a diet. Lipolaser promotes a non-diet, non-invasive, pain-free way to lose inches. It supposedly opens fat cells, right through the skin, and “stuff comes out of the fat cells.” The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) states it is not a laser light but an infrared lamp—so probably harmless. Treatments, on special sale, cost as low as $1,497 and up to $5,000 for the typical nine one-hour sessions. Does it work? Save your money.  

Worst claim:  Ultimate Cleanse promoters claim the body should be detoxified regularly to rid it of wastes and toxins. The FDA points out that the body is naturally self-cleaning. The primary ingredient, cascara segrada, is a powerful laxative banned as an ingredient in over-the-counter drugs in 2002. The product supposedly cleanses the bowel, liver, kidneys, lungs, and skin plus bloodstream, cells, and body tissues. Continued use results in several adverse conditions.

Worst product: HCG supplements resurged from popular 1950s weight-loss methods. HCG, human chorionic gonadotropin, is a hormone produced during pregnancy. Promoters claim injections reset the hypothalamus, improve metabolism, and mobilize fat stores. No scientific evidence exists to support these claims. Herbal versions of HCG recommend placing 5 to 10 HCG drops under the tongue several times a day. Interestingly, the program requires a 500 calorie a day diet. Short-term side effects of the program include fatigue, headache, mood swings, depression, and other symptoms.

Most outrageous: Distinction for the most outrageous diet aid went to Basic Research LLC. This company has received many warnings, fines, and ongoing lawsuits from the Federal Trade Commission. The most recent suit involved the “Jillian Michaels Maximum Strength Calorie Control.”

After noting some of the frauds for those hungry to lose extra pounds, consider how you can maintain a healthy weight  plus save money and perhaps your health. Simply make wiser food choices. Shouldn’t every week be a healthy weight week?

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