This Week’s Nutrition News Feed

by in Food News & Trends, April 3, 2014

vegetables and herbs
In this week’s news: Vegetables save lives (seven-a-day is the new five-a-day); baseball stadiums cater to the Whole Foods set; and scientists keep putting monkeys on wacky diets.

For a Longer Life, Pass the Salad Tongs
Given all the nutrition studies out there, you might think researchers have tested every hypothetical in the book. Turns out there was a ginormous one missing. Earlier this week, researchers at University College London released the very first report to not just associate eating fruits and vegetables with reduced risk of death of any cause but also to put numbers to the benefit per serving: Eat seven or more portions of produce, and you’ll apparently be 42 percent less likely to die at any given point in time. (Note that the magic of statistics make this sound a little more exciting that in is: No matter how many carrots you eat, you will keel over, eventually.) Drawing on a Health Survey for England data set involving 65,226 people between 2001 and 2013, the study was also able to narrow things down by portion (five to seven servings might buy you a 36 percent reduction, and three to five could get you 25 percent). Fresh produce had the strongest effect, reducing risk by 16 percent per portion. Canned or frozen fruit appeared to increase death odds by 17 percent, most likely because of the foods’ sugar content say the researchers. Always a good bet? Salad, which was associated with a 13 percent gain in the longevity department.

Buy Me Some Peanuts and … Local Produce?
Move over pretzels and hot dogs, our national pastime is getting a menu makeover. A number of Major League Baseball stadiums across the country are kicking off the season with concessions menus that include items seemingly geared toward Portlandia types: Namely, locally sourced ingredients prepared with recipes developed by regional chefs. If you’re rooting for the Mariners in Seattle, offerings will include a salmon sandwich, while Colorado Rockies fans can expect produce from an organic garden planted right next to the Denver Convention Center.

Garden of Eatin’ (with a Side of Public Health)
Punxsutawney Phil, if Michelle Obama’s gardening, rain or shine, it must be spring. Five years ago, Michelle Obama planted the largest (55 varieties of produce) White House Vegetable Garden to date. The garden has since become a symbol of the current movement to get kids more direct access to healthy food. Yesterday, continuing what has become an annual spring tradition, the First Lady was joined by FoodCorps, an organization that dispatches volunteers to conduct food education, set up school gardens and work toward getting high-quality food into school cafeterias. “FoodCorps service members play a critical role in the drive to end childhood obesity,” FoodCorps co-founder and CEO Curt Ellis said in a statement.

Move Over Paleo: the Latest on Primate Dieting
It’s far from Battle for the Planet of the Apes, but a bit of primate-related controversy did strike the nutrition world this week. In 2009, a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin set off a media frenzy when they reported that when they fed rhesus monkeys a severely restricted diet (30 percent fewer calories), those monkeys lived 40 percent longer. Yet just a few years later, another group of researchers working out of the National Institute on Aging, in Baltimore, released data from a calorie restriction experiment that they had conducted, also with rhesus monkeys, that didn’t seem to have that effect. This week, publishing in the journal Nature Communications, the Wisconsin team claimed that the reason for the difference was that the Baltimore researchers fed their control monkeys a diet much leaner than average. In other words, one that was closer to the restricted-style diet than to what normal monkeys eat. The Baltimore team has come back with some rebuttals, but as things stand right now, both sides seem to lean toward the less-and-better-food-is-a-pretty-good-thing idea. The two groups are promising a joint paper on the topic in the near future.

Sara Reistad-Long writes about science, wellness and lifestyle. She is the co-author of The Big New York Sandwich Book and can be followed on Twitter: @sarareistadlong

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