13.4% of studies in top nutrition journals in 2018 had food industry ties

A new analysis of studies published by top nutrition journals in 2018 shows that 13.4 percent disclosed involvement from the food industry, and studies with industry involvement were more likely to report results favorable to industry interests. Gary Sacks of Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on December 16.

Food companies might choose to become involved in nutrition research to help generate new knowledge. For instance, they might provide funding for academic research or assign employees to research teams. However, growing evidence suggests that food industry involvement could potentially bias nutrition research towards food industry interests, perhaps at the expense of public health.

To better understand the extent and potential impact of food industry involvement in research, Sacks and colleagues assessed all peer-reviewed papers published in 2018 in the top 10 most-cited academic journals related to nutrition and diet. They evaluated which papers had food industry ties, such as funding from food companies or authors affiliated with food companies, and noted whether results supported industry interests.

The analysis found that 13.4 percent of all analyzed articles reported involvement from the food industry (196/1,461), with some journals having a greater proportion of involvement than others. Compared to a random sample of studies without food industry involvement (n = 196), studies with industry involvement were over five times more likely to report results that favored food industry interests; 55.6 percent compared to 9.7 percent.

These findings add to mounting evidence that industry involvement could bias research agendas or findings towards industry interests, while potentially neglecting topics that are more important to public health. The authors of this study suggest several mechanisms that could be explored to prevent the food industry from compromising the integrity of nutrition research.

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Poor and minority children with food allergies overlooked and in danger

As Emily Brown stood in a food pantry looking at her options, she felt alone. Up to that point, she had never struggled financially. But there she was, desperate to find safe food for her young daughter with food allergies. What she found was a jar of salsa and some potatoes.

“That was all that was available,” said Brown, who lives in Kansas City, Kansas. “It was just a desperate place.”

When she became a parent, Brown left her job for lack of child care that would accommodate her daughter’s allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat and soy. When she and her husband then turned to a federal food assistance program, they found few allowable allergy substitutions. The closest allergy support group she could find was an hour away. She was almost always the only Black parent, and the only poor parent, there.

Brown called national food allergy advocacy organizations to ask for guidance to help poor families find safe food and medical resources, but she said she was told that wasn’t their focus. Support groups, fundraising activities and advocacy efforts, plus clinical and research outreach, were targeted at wealthier—and white—families. Advertising rarely reflected families that looked like hers. She felt unseen.

“In many ways, food allergy is an invisible disease. The burden of the disease, the activities and energy it takes to avoid allergens, are mostly invisible to those not impacted,” Brown said. “Black and other minority patients often lack voice and visibility in the health care system. Add the additional burden of an invisible condition and you are in a really vulnerable position.”

An estimated 6 million children in the United States have food allergies, 40% of them with more than one. Though limited research has been done on race and class breakdowns, recent studies show that poor children and some groups of minority children not only have a higher incidence of food allergies than white kids, but their families also have more difficulty accessing appropriate child care, safe food, medical care and lifesaving medicine like epinephrine for them.

Black children are 7% more likely to have food allergies than white children, according to a 2020 study by Dr. Ruchi Gupta, at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. To be sure, the study shows that Asian children are 24% more likely than white children to have food allergies. But Black and Hispanic children are disproportionately more likely to live in poor communities, to have asthma, and to suffer from systemic racism in the delivery of medical care.

And finding allergen-free food to keep allergic kids safe can be costly—in both time and money.

“Many times, a mother is frank and says, ‘I have $20 to $40 to buy groceries for the week, and if I buy these foods that you are telling me to buy, I will not be able to feed my entire family,'” said Dr. Carla Davis, director of the food allergy program at Houston’s Texas Children’s Hospital.

“If you are diagnosed with a food allergy and you don’t have disposable income or disposable time, there is really no way that you will be able to alter your diet in a way that your child is going to stay away from their allergen.”

Fed up with the lack of support, Brown founded the Food Equality Initiative advocacy organization in 2014. It offers an online marketplace to income-eligible families in Kansas and Missouri who, with a doctor’s note about the allergy, can order free allergy-safe food to fit their needs.

Nationwide, though, families’ needs far outstrip what her group can offer—and the problem has gotten worse amid the economic squeeze of the COVID pandemic. Job losses and business closures have exacerbated the barriers to finding and affording nutritious food, according to a report from Feeding America, an association of food banks.

Brown said her organization more than doubled its clientele in March through August, compared with the same period in 2019. And though it currently serves only Missouri and Kansas, she said the organization has been fielding an increasing number of calls from across the country since the pandemic began.

For low-income minorities, who live disproportionately in food deserts, fresh and allergy-friendly foods can be especially expensive and difficult to find in the best of times.

Food assistance programs are heavily weighted to prepackaged and processed foods, which often include the very ingredients that are problematic. Black children are more likely to be allergic to wheat and soy than white kids, and both Black and Hispanic children are more likely to be allergic to corn, shellfish and fish, according to a 2016 study.

Some programs allow few allergy substitutions. For example, the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children allows only canned beans as a substitute for peanut butter. While nutritionally similar, beans are not as easy to pack for a kid’s lunch. Brown questions why WIC won’t allow a seed butter, such as sunflower butter, instead. She said they are nutritionally and functionally similar and are offered as allergy substitutions in other food programs.

Making matters worse, low-income households pay more than twice as much as higher-income families for the emergency medical care their children receive for their allergies, according to a 2016 study by Gupta. The kids often arrive at the hospital in more distress because they lack safe food and allergy medications—and because asthma, which disproportionately hits Black and Puerto Rican children and low-income communities, complicates allergic reactions.

“So, in these vulnerable populations, it’s like a double whammy, and we see that reflected in the data,” said Dr. Lakiea Wright-Bello, a medical director in specialty diagnostics at Thermo Fisher Scientific and an allergist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Thomas and Dina Silvera, who are Black and Latinx, lived this horror firsthand. After their 3-year-old son, Elijah-Alavi, died as a result of a dairy allergy when fed a grilled cheese instead of his allergen-free food at his preschool, they launched the Elijah-Alavi Foundation to address the dearth of information about food allergies and the critical lack of culturally sensitive medical care in low-income communities.

“We started it for a cause, not because we wanted to, but because we had to,” said Thomas Silvera. “Our main focus is to bring to underserved communities—especially communities of color—this information at no cost to them.”

Recently, other advocacy groups, including Food Allergy Research & Education, a national advocacy organization, also have started to turn their attention to a lack of access and support in poor and minority communities. When Lisa Gable, who is white, took over at the group known as FARE in 2018, she began to diversify the organization internally and to make it more inclusive.

“There wasn’t a big tent when I walked in the door,” said Gable. “What we have been focused on doing is trying to find partners and relationships that will allow us to diversify those engaged in the community, because it has not been a diverse community.”

FARE has funded research into the cost of food allergies. It is also expanding its patient registry, which collects data for research, as well as its clinical network of medical institutions to include more diverse communities.

Gupta is now leading one of the first studies funded by the National Institutes of Health to investigate food allergy in children by race and ethnicity. It looks at all aspects of food allergies, including family life, management, access to care and genetics.

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WHO says food safe from coronavirus

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday urged people not to fear catching the novel coronavirus from food, after Chinese testers found traces on food and food packaging.

The virus was found Tuesday in the Chinese city of Shenzhen during a routine check on samples of frozen chicken wings imported from Brazil, city authorities said.

The authorities said they immediately screened people who had been in contact with the contaminated products, plus their relatives, and all the tests came back negative.

In China’s eastern Anhui province, the mayor of Wuhu announced Thursday that the virus had been discovered on the packaging of shrimp imported from Ecuador, which had been kept in a restaurant freezer.

The WHO said there was no need to panic—and there were no examples of the respiratory disease being transmitted through food.

“People are already scared enough and fearful enough in the COVID pandemic,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan told a virtual press conference in Geneva.

“People should not fear food or food packaging or the processing or delivery of food.

“There is no evidence that food or the food chain is participating in the transmission of this virus.

“Our food, from a COVID perspective, is safe.”

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, said the United Nations health agency was aware of the reports and understood that China was looking for the virus on food packaging.

“They’ve tested a few hundred thousand samples of looking at packaging and have found very, very few, less than 10 positive in doing that,” she said.

“We know that the virus can remain on surfaces for some time.

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To reduce world hunger, governments need to think beyond making food cheap

According to a new United Nations report, global rates of hunger and malnutrition are on the rise. The report estimates that in 2019, 690 million people—8.9% of the world’s population—were undernourished. It predicts that this number will exceed 840 million by 2030.

If you also include the number of people who the U.N. describes as food insecure, meaning that they have trouble getting access to food, over 2 billion people worldwide are in trouble. This includes people in wealthy, middle-income and low-income countries.

The report further confirms that women are more likely to face moderate to severe food insecurity than men, and that little progress has been achieved on this front in the past several years. Overall, its findings warn that eradicating hunger by 2030—one of the U.N.’s main Sustainable Development Goals – looks increasingly unlikely.

COVID-19 has only made matters worse: The report estimates that the unfolding pandemic and its accompanying economic recession will push an additional 83 million to 182 million people into undernourishment. But based on our work serving as independent experts to the U.N. on hunger, access to food and malnutrition, under the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, it’s clear to us that the virus is only accelerating existing trends. It is not driving the rising numbers of hungry and food-insecure people.

How much should healthy food cost?

Experts have debated for years how best to measure hunger and malnutrition. In the past, the U.N. focused almost exclusively on calories—an approach that researchers and advocacy groups criticized as too narrow.

This year’s report takes a more thoughtful approach that focuses on access to healthy diets. One thing it found is that when governments primarily focused on making sure people had enough calories, they did so by supporting large transnational corporations and by making fatty, sweet and highly-processed foods cheap and accessible.

This perspective raises some important issues about the global political economy of food. As the new report points out, people who live at the current global poverty level of US$1.90 per day cannot feasibly secure access to a healthy diet, even under the most optimistic scenarios.

More broadly, the U.N. report addresses one of the longest-running debates in agriculture: What is a fair price for healthy food?

One thing everyone agrees on is that a plant-heavy diet is best for human health and the planet. But if prices for fruits and vegetables are too low, then farmers can’t make a living, and will grow something more lucrative or quit farming altogether. And costs eventually go up for consumers as the supply dwindles. Conversely, if the price is too high, then most people can’t afford healthy food and will resort to eating whatever they can afford—often, cheap processed foods.

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The role of governments

Food prices don’t just reflect supply and demand. As the report notes, government policies always directly or indirectly influence them.

Some countries raise taxes at the border, making imported food more expensive in order to protect local producers and ensure a stable supply of food. Rich countries like the U.S., Canada, and in the EU heavily subsidize their farming sectors.

Governments can also spend public money on programs like farmer education or school meals, or invest in better roads and storage facilities. Another option is to grant people living in poverty food vouchers or cash to buy food, or to ensure everyone has a basic income that allows them to cover their fundamental spending. There’s a host of ways in which governments can make sure food prices allow producers to make a living and consumers to afford healthy meals.

The human cost of cheap food

The U.N. report focuses on trying to make sure that food is as cheap as possible. This is limited in a number of ways.

New research highlights that mostly focusing on cheap prices can promote environmental damage and brutal economic systems. That’s because only large corporations can afford to compete in a market committed to cheap food. As our research has shown, today and in the past, people’s access to food is usually determined by how much power is concentrated in the hands of the few.

One current example is meatpacking plants, which have been coronavirus transmission centers in the U.S., Canada, Brazil and Europe. To keep prices low, people work shoulder-to-shoulder processing meat at an incredible speed. During the pandemic, these conditions have enabled the virus to spread among workers, and outbreaks in factories have then spread the virus to nearby communities.

New international standards allow factories to continue to operate, but in a way that protects workers. In our view, governments are not adequately enforcing these safety standards to stop the spread of the virus. Globally, four corporations—Brazil’s JBS, Tyson and Cargill in the United States, and Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods—dominate the meat-producing sector. Studies have shown that they are able to lobby and influence government policy in ways that prioritize profit over worker and community safety.

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Researchers survey food banks as pandemic bites

A new study is seeking feedback from Australasian food banks on how they are coping with growing demand in the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The survey, led by University of Canterbury (UC) researchers, aims to find out more about the economic and social impacts of the virus.

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for supplies from food banks has increased exponentially,” says lead researcher Dr. Rosemarie Martin, who specializes in food, policy and wellbeing for UC’s MacMillan Brown Center for Pacific Studies.

“Food banks around the world, including in New Zealand and Australia, have been stepping in to feed families and help people facing economic and social devastation triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. People who have never used a food bank before, and would usually see themselves as middle class families, are now also needing their help. The increase in demand is putting food banks under pressure and potentially the situation could get even worse.”

Dr. Martin says the aim of the survey, which is part of UC’s Food, Policy and Wellbeing Research Cluster, aims to determine the best policies for addressing growing food security issues in times of crisis.

She is working on the study with Dr. Matthew Ruby from the La Trobe University, School of Psychology and Public Health (Australia) and UC Professor Steven Ratuva, Director of the Macmillan Brown Center for Pacific Studies.

The survey, which is underway now, asks managers of food banks and other community food organizations in New Zealand and Australia which sectors of society have been affected most by the pandemic, what supplies they have and how food banks are planning for the future.

Dr. Martin says many people have had a change in circumstances, including losing their jobs, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and border closures. After carrying out some initial interviews with food bank managers in New Zealand she believes Māori and Pasifika are being disproportionately affected.

“The pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing social and economic inequality and food security has become a major issue. We hope the results of this research will be used by Government agencies to contribute to more equitable and effective food policy as a matter of urgency. There is a real need to do something to address inequalities around food security in New Zealand. We are a wealthy country that produces plenty of food, so how can it be that so many people don’t have enough to eat? This has been identified as a problem since the 1990s but it still hasn’t been addressed. Now, with recent global events, it is getting worse.”

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Cooking more at home? Diverse food cultures can expand heart-healthy menu

For many in the United States, dinner means a large portion of meat and two sides, usually a starch and a vegetable. Think steak, potatoes and peas, or chicken, carrots and rice.

“That’s a very American and northern European idea—a meal which stems from a large amount of meat being available, and also wealth,” said Amy Bentley, a professor of food studies at New York University.

But trying different dishes from diverse cultures can open up a new menu of heart-healthy food options and go-to meal ideas. And now, with more people making their own meals as they stay home to limit the spread of the coronavirus, what better time than World Day of Cultural Diversity to try something different for dinner?

Meat is just an accent on the dish in many other parts of the world, said Bentley, author of “Inventing Baby Food: Taste, Health and the Industrialization of the American Diet.” Vegetables, including legumes like black beans or chickpeas, make up a medium portion of the plate. A starch like rice or polenta usually makes up the largest portion. Spices add flavor.

Think an Indian curry or Chinese stir-fried chicken and vegetables.

If you’re cooking the dish for the first time, Bentley recommends making a smaller amount or going light on spicier ingredients to get used to the flavors.

Keep moderation in mind when sizing up portions, too, said Ronaldo Linares, a New Jersey-based chef and restaurant consultant who teaches cooking classes. Linares, who comes from a Cuban-Colombian background, wrote the cookbook, “Sabores de Cuba,” a recipe collection of classic Cuban dishes with a healthy, diabetes-friendly twist.

Eating one big meal has the potential to cause fluctuations in blood sugar, Linares said. Research shows fluctuations in blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol could put people at higher risk for heart attack or stroke.

Using fresh ingredients and avoiding processed foods can add interesting flavors, he added. “If you are sticking to the guidelines of traditional cooking, it’s going to be naturally healthy.”

Instead of store-bought salsa, Bentley suggested making homemade salsa with chopped-up tomatoes, onion, cilantro, jalapenos and a pinch of salt. If a recipe calls for butter, Linares suggested substituting avocado oil or olive oil, which are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

Both Linares and Bentley noted that for some families, a lack of access to affordable, fresh ingredients can hamper the ability to eat diverse or healthier foods. Food choices also can be influenced by the exposure to ads for sugary drinks and fast food, regardless of one’s racial or ethnic background.

Just 1 in 10 adults meet the daily recommendation of having at least 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables as part of a healthy eating pattern, according to a 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Ultimately, we need a better food environment,” Bentley said. “It’s too much to expect the individual to be solely responsible because so much of this is about the food that’s available in the culture as well as socioeconomic issues.”

Some general nutritional guidelines can fit into meals within any cultural preference, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They include making half your plate fruits and vegetables, and adding calcium-rich foods to each meal.

“It’s better to talk about healthy approaches to eating through actual food rather than nutrients,” Bentley said, “and not get hung up on portions and the minute mechanics that only adds to people’s stress.”

The American Heart Association suggests a healthy dietary pattern to reduce heart disease risk factors, such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. Plant-based and Mediterranean diets are singled out in AHA dietary guidelines.

Linares picked Peruvian cuisine when asked to highlight another food culture for people looking to try heart-healthy but flavorful alternatives. His sample meal starts with ceviche, a seafood dish.

“So, let’s say a ceviche of cooked octopus. It’s super tender, they char it, serve it cold, toss it in some lime juice and some herbs,” he said. “Then you have a sweet potato puree and add some aromatics and seasoning. Add some corn, some pickled onions and you put it together in this beautiful bowl.

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Heart attack: Worst food group which significantly raises your risk

Heart attacks occur when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked. A lack of blood to the heart may seriously damage the heart muscle and can prove deadly. When it comes to one’s diet, aiming for five portions of fruits and vegetables will help to keep the heart healthy. When it comes to a food which does the opposite, there is one that should be avoided as much as possible.

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When a heart attack occurs, it can disrupt a person’s normal heart rhythm, potentially stopping it altogether.

When the heart stops getting a supply of blood during a heart attack, some of the tissue can die.

This can weaken the heart and later cause life-threatening conditions such as heart failure.

Heart attacks can affect the heart valve and cause leaks.

Keeping healthy and active are some of the best methods to reduce having a heart attack and spotting early signs is also crucial.

When it comes to being healthy and reducing your risk of serious conditions, eating bacon should be avoided.

More than half of bacon’s calories come from saturated fat.

Saturated fat raises the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol and boost the chance of a heart attack or stroke.

Bacon also contains high amounts of salt which bumps up the blood pressure and makes the heart work harder.

High amounts of sodium can lead to stroke, heart disease and heart failure.

Bacon’s added preservatives are linked to these issues as well.

A study of almost 30,000 people followed for up to three decades found those who regularly consumed processed meat such as bacon were more prone to premature death.

In particular, having red or processed meat every seven days was linked to a three percent to seven percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Senior author of the study, Norrina Allen, professor of preventative medicine at Northwestern University, Chicago said: “It is a small difference, but it’s worth trying to reduce red meat and processed meat like pepperoni and deli meats.

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Red meat includes beef, lamb, pork, veal and venison.

Processed is bacon, sausages, hot dogs, salami and corned beef.

The study published in JAMA Internal Medicine included self-reported diets over the previous year or month of 29,682 men and women with an average age of 53.

Lead author Dr Victor Zhong said: “Modifying intake of these animal protein foods may be an important strategy to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death at a population level.”

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute said: “The major risk factors for a heart attack include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight and obesity, an unhealthy diet, lack of routine physical activity, high blood sugar due to insulin resistance or diabetes.

“Some of these risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and high blood sugar tend to occur together.

“When they do, it’s called metabolic syndrome. In general, a person who has metabolic syndrome is twice as likely to develop heart disease and five times as likely to develop diabetes as someone who doesn’t have metabolic syndrome.”

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Princess Charlotte Delivers Food Ahead of Her 5th Birthday: See the Pics

Growing on up! In honor of Princess Charlotte’s 5th birthday, Duchess Kate and Prince William unveiled new photos of their daughter — and they were all shot by the young girl’s mother!

“The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are very pleased to share four new photographs of Princess Charlotte ahead of her fifth birthday tomorrow,” a statement from Kensington Royal’s official Instagram page read on Friday, May 1. “The images were taken by The Duchess as the family helped to pack up and deliver food packages for isolated pensioners in the local area.”

Kate, 38, and William, 37, welcomed their only daughter at St Mary’s Hospital in London on May 2, 2015. She’s the younger sister to Prince George, 6, and the second eldest sibling of Prince Louis, 2.

Earlier this year, the Duchess of Cambridge opened up about her experience with raising her three young ones. In doing so, she admitted that she, too, experiences mom guilt from time to time.

“Yes absolutely — and anyone who doesn’t as a mother is actually lying! Yep—all the time, yep,” she said during a rare interview on “Happy Mum Happy Baby” podcast in February. “And you know even this morning, coming to the nursery visit here — George and Charlotte were like ‘Mommy, how could you possibly not be dropping us off at school this morning?’”

Kate continued, “But no, it’s a constant challenge. You hear it time and time again from moms, even moms who aren’t necessarily working and aren’t pulled in the directions of having to juggle work life and family life… and always sort of questioning your own decisions and your own judgements and things like that, and I think that starts from the moment you have a baby!”

As of late, Kate and William have had to adjust to homeschooling their two eldest children during the coronavirus quarantine. During an interview with BBC on April 16, William stated that homeschooling has been “fun,” while Kate touched on their kids’ “stamina.”

“I don’t know how they get it done honestly,” she explained at the time. “You sort of pitch a tent, take the tent down again, cook, bake [and] you get to the end of the day. They’ve had a lovely time, but it’s amazing how much they can cram into a day, that’s for sure.”

A source told Us that Kate has kept her three children entertained from home by gardening and baking together. “Kate bakes and decorates cakes with the kids [on] the weekend,” the insider revealed, noting that “the kitchen is always a complete mess by the end of it, but it’s all part of the fun.”

Scroll down to see the adorable new shots of Princess Charlotte!

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