Thursday, November 22, 2012

Food news for Thanksgiving

Continuing with the food theme from yesterday's entry, here is a collection of food news for Thanksgiving. I'll start this linkspam off with this update on Hostess Cakes has gone Galt from Next Media Animation: Hostess Brand Inc., maker of Twinkies, might liquidate.

See, I told you all that the brands and products would survive, even if the parent company disappears.

Follow over the jump for the all the food news I've included in Overnight News Digest since my Food Day news entry last month.

From Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Frankenstorm edition) comes the last full week of October's food news from campuses on the campaign trail, arranged alphabetically by state.

Arizona Daily Star: South Tucson gets center teaching healthy eating
Stephanie Innes Arizona Daily Star
October 26, 2012 12:00 am
A former Mexican restaurant in South Tucson is now a taxpayer-funded public community center with an anti-obesity focus.

The Garden Kitchen, 2205 S. Fourth Ave., has outdoor vegetable gardens, colorful scarecrows and indoor kitchens for healthy cooking demonstrations.

Organizers hope the project will become a community gathering place for farmers markets and regular neighborhood walking events.

A joint effort between Pima County and the University of Arizona, The Garden Kitchen will start out with limited hours through December: Saturdays only from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., when anyone from the public can attend cooking classes.
University of Arizona: UA Geneticists Help Solve Barley Genome Puzzle
By Daniel Stolte, University Communications
October 17, 2012
As part of an international consortium, scientists led by UA plant sciences professor Rod Wing have helped decipher the genetic alphabet of the barley plant. This is the largest plant genome to be sequenced and paves the way for tackling the wheat genome, the last frontier in the world's most important cereal crops.

Higher yields, improved pest and disease resistance and enhanced nutritional value are among potential benefits of an international scientific research effort that has resulted in an integrated physical, genetic and functional sequence assembly of the barley genome, as described in a paper published in the journal Nature. “If you think of all the barley genes as a giant puzzle, you could say we can now see what picture the puzzle shows, how many pieces there are, what they look like and where they go,” explained Rod Wing, professor of plant sciences in the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of the UA Arizona Genomics Institute.
According to the IBSC, the new resource will facilitate the development of new and better barley varieties able to cope with the demands of climate change. It should also help in the fight against cereal crop diseases, which cause millions in losses every year.
Arizona State University: Research project: Can the arts change dietary attitudes?
Posted: October 26, 2012
"Diabetes of Democracy in South Phoenix" is a research project designed to examine the efficacy of the arts – specifically, theatrical performance – in changing the dietary attitudes and behaviors of young people at higher risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes.

It was conceived by professors Tamara Underiner and Stephani Woodson of the School of Theatre and Film and Seline Szkupinski Quiroga and Donna Winham of the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion. The project considers the growing trend toward obesity among young Latinos in the Southwest, whose dietary choices are influenced both by their ancestral culture and by pressures to assimilate to a more mainstream U.S.-American diet, in light of recent studies in cultural and social anthropology relating food preferences to cultural location.

Last semester the project used culturally specific cuisine, storytelling and rituals combined with performance art and interactive cooking to spark discussion about the epidemic of Type 2 diabetes and share strategies for combating the disease.
Northern Arizona University: Research links rice agriculture to global warming through methane production
October 23, 2012
More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and rising temperatures cause rice agriculture to become a larger source of the potent greenhouse gas methane, new research published in Nature Climate Change reveals.

"Our results show that rice agriculture becomes less climate friendly as our atmosphere continues to change," said Kees Jan van Groenigen, research fellow at the Botany Department at the School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, and lead author of the study.

"This is important, because rice paddies are one of the largest human-made sources of methane, and rice is the world's second-most produced staple crop."
Purdue University: Hurt: Drought devastating to beef industry; herd numbers dropping
October 25, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - High feed prices and large financial losses brought on by a combination of multi-year drought in the Southern Plains and the 2012 Midwestern drought will continue their stranglehold on the nation's beef industry in the coming months, a Purdue Extension agricultural economist says.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, September cattle placements onto feedlots dropped a sharp 19 percent compared with September 2011. July and August also were months of decline.

"Drought has been particularly cruel to the beef cattle industry," Chris Hurt said. "Brood cows remain the last major livestock industry that is land-extensive. So when dryness causes wide stretches of land to be unable to support cow grazing, producers have to buy feed or send cows to town."
Ohio State University: Studies: Pigs Look Healthy But Test Positive for Flu at Fairs; Flu Transmission Seen Between Pigs and Humans
October 24, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio - More than 80 percent of pigs that tested positive for influenza A virus at Ohio county fairs between 2009 and 2011 showed no signs of illness, according to a new study.

Ohio State University researchers tested 20 pigs each at 53 fair events over those three summers and found at least one flu-positive pig at 12 fairs - almost a quarter of fairs tested.

The influenza strains identified in pigs in this study include H1N2 and H3N2 viruses - strains that have been circulating in pigs since 1998. In 2011, all of the H3N2 and H1N2 isolates found in pigs at the fairs contained a gene from the 2009 pandemic strain of H1N1, which is similar to the H3N2v strain causing human illness this year.
In a second study led by Bowman, researchers compared the genomic sequences of influenza A viruses recovered in July 2012 from pigs and people. The analysis, showing a greater than 99 percent genetic similarity among the viruses, confirms that pigs and humans were infected with the same virus, indicating interspecies transmission.
There's more than one way your food can make you sick.

Virginia Tech: Research in sustainable agriculture identifies climate-smart crop at experimental plots in the Philippines
October 19, 2012
In the pantheon of climate-smart crops, cassava gets top billing as the “Rambo” of plant varieties.

Known for its hardiness in water-challenged environments, cassava's unmatched resilience to punishing drought conditions has propelled the root vegetable to “darling” status among food crop researchers in the developing world.

But recent Virginia Tech research shows another crop might just be the “Steve Austin” to cassava’s “Rambo.” A little known grain crop in the West, adlai grass is a “bionic” plant that is exceptional for its versatility, hardiness, and strength as a bio-pump crop; and it promises to be a worthy weapon in combating the weather-induced food shortages of an increasingly warming planet.
Virginia Tech: Economic conditions may trump genetics when battling obesity
October 23, 2012
In a first of its kind study that shows environmental conditions can be more influential than genetics, Virginia Tech researchers have found that the cost of food — not someone’s genetic makeup — is a major factor in eating fattening food.

The study, which was recently published in The Open Neuroendocrinology Journal, suggests that economic environments could be altered to help counteract the obesity epidemic plaguing more than one-third of Americans.

In the U.S. over the last 30 years, the price of fattening food has declined compared to healthy food, while obesity rates increased. This research suggests that if fattening foods cost more or were taxed, people would be less likely to eat them.
Next, the food news from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Sandy's aftermath edition), again arranged by state.

University of Arizona: UA Study: Could Your Relationship Be Contributing to Your Weight Gain?
UA researcher Emily Butler will look at how couples might use food to feel closer, avoid conflict or cope with tension in the relationship.
By Alexis Blue, University Communications
October 31, 2012
The obesity epidemic in the United States has been linked to a number of factors – environmental, political, economic. One University of Arizona researcher now is looking at how a person’s relationship with his or her romantic partner might also play a role.

Emily Butler, associate professor of family studies and human development, is leading a study that looks at how certain relationship dynamics in romantic couples might lead to unhealthy habits and ultimately unwanted weight gain.

“We’re looking at the kinds of emotional and interpersonal behavioral patterns going on in couples and to what extent those predict unhealthy versus healthy eating and activity habits and eventually weight gain or weight maintenance,” said Butler, who directs the UA’s Health & Interpersonal Systems Research Group.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is focused on romantic couples who recently moved in together and are just starting to establish shared lifestyle habits.
University of Florida: UF/IFAS scientists discover enzyme that improves flavor of ripening tomatoes
November 1, 2012.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The enzyme CXE1 will never be a household name, but a new University of Florida study suggests that tomato lovers owe it a debt of thanks nonetheless — without it, their favorite fruit might not be so tasty.

In a study published this week by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences announced their discovery of the enzyme and showed how the common tomato plant generates large amounts of it as the fruit ripens.

Chemical reactions triggered by CXE1 improve the fruit’s flavor profile by reducing the presence of acetate esters, volatile chemicals commonly associated with plant defense and plant-to-plant communication, said molecular biologist Harry Klee, an eminent scholar with UF’s horticultural sciences department.

“We do believe this phenomenon makes the fruit more palatable,” Klee said.
Purdue University: Organic status will make Purdue research more competitive
November 2, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University farm near the West Lafayette campus now has about 10 acres of certified organic land, putting researchers in a stronger position to help develop more effective organic farming practices.

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association certified the land in October at Meigs Farm, part of the Throckmorton Purdue Agricultural Center in Tippecanoe County.

Kevin Gibson, a Purdue weed scientist, said the land would help researchers do the type of holistic science needed to help farmers grow their crops organically.

"In order to evaluate management practices like crop rotations, pest management, the use of cover crops or how a particular variety will perform under organic conditions, we need to work within the same set of rules as organic growers," he said.
Purdue University: Warmer climates don't necessarily mean more fertile soils, study says
October 31, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Warmer climates won't necessarily speed the return of nitrogen to soils as scientists once thought, according to a Purdue University study.

Increased temperatures from climate change have been expected to speed decomposition of plant materials and the return of nitrogen to soils, making the soil more fertile for plants. But Jeff Dukes, an associate professor of forestry and natural resources at Purdue, found that the microbes responsible for returning nitrogen to soils react differently to a range of climate scenarios.

"More nitrogen being available is not something we can count on in all ecosystems," said Dukes, whose findings were published in the journal Global Change Biology.
Indiana University: IU researchers discuss fresh food access, sex and IVF, smoke-free workplaces and more at APHA
October 31, 2012
Indiana University researchers in public health, law, informatics/computing, sociology and other fields participated in the American Public Health Association's annual meeting Oct. 27 to 31 in San Francisco. Below are summaries of some of the studies discussed.

Moving local, fresh foods beyond 'privileged' consumers

An Indiana University study that looked at consumers who buy locally grown and produced foods through farmer's markets and community-supported agriculture programs found the venues largely attract a "privileged" class of shoppers.

"Our findings present a need for broadening local food opportunities beyond the privileged, higher-income consumer, through alternative payment plans and strategic efforts that make fresh foods accessible to a diversity of people," said James Farmer, assistant professor in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.

The study focused on farmer's markets and CSAs in Indiana, which has more than 130 farmer's markets and more than 50 CSAs. In a CSA, individuals pay an upfront fee, usually $250 to $700, in exchange for a routine allotment of a farm's bounty. This can include fruits and vegetables, along with eggs, meat, dairy products and other goods.

Nationally, the popularity of both has grown exponentially, Farmer said, with farmer's markets seeing a 450 percent increase since 1994. More than 12,500 CSAs operate across the U.S. Generally speaking, local foods are more often produced using sustainable farming practices that eliminate or decrease the use of chemical applications that can be found in conventionally produced farm products.

"When you consider freshness as an important value for consumers, hands down local foods that are distributed directly from the farmer to the consumer get from the field to the table in a much shorter period of time," Farmer said. "Also, when you shop at a chain grocery store, the money you spend quickly leaves the local economy, as opposed to being spent several times over within one's own town or city."

Farmer said that alternative payment models do exist for CSAs and farmer's markets, but they need to become more widespread. Many farmer's markets accept WIC Program vouchers and other government assistance for food. Many CSAs have incorporated payment installment plans and work-exchange programs, with a smaller number offering a sliding payment scale.

"Additionally, the need for farmer's markets and CSAs to be positioned in locations proximate to people who are food insecure would also increase access," he said.
Soda consumption, screen time, team sports at school influence students' weight

Soda consumption, TV and video/computer games, and the frequency of meals heavily influenced students' weight in an Indiana University study that examined the impact of a school-based obesity intervention program over an 18-month period.

More soda consumption and screen time meant students were more likely to be overweight or to gain weight. The more frequently students ate meals each day, the less likely they were to stay overweight or gain weight during the study, which examined the Healthy, Energetic, Ready, Outstanding, Enthusiastic Schools program.

Dong-Chul Seo, associate professor in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, said participation in team sports also contributed to students' ability to achieve a healthy weight.

"Schools and families may be able to successfully focus on these modifiable risk factors, decreasing the burden of childhood obesity," he said.
Seo said the findings confirm the connection between higher levels of soda consumption and persistent overweight and deteriorating weight status, and they support the recent and controversial New York City ban on sales of supersized soda and other sweetened beverages.

The finding about the relationship between the number of meals students eat daily and their weight contributes to a scant amount of evidence in this area.

"Thus, encouraging students to maintain a regular meal pattern with at least three meals a day appears to be a good strategy to help students achieve healthy weight," Seo said.

The research found that the overall socio-economic status of a school had an impact on students. Those attending schools with lower socio-economic status were more likely to be overweight or to gain weight during the study period. This could reflect the greater opportunities students have for nutritious food offerings and physical activity at schools with high socio-economic status, Seo said, or it could reflect peer influence.
Finally, the food news from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Obama re-elected edition), presented like all the rest, alphabetically by state.

University of Connecticut: Neag Study: School Psychologists Can Play Key Role in Reducing Obesity, Raising Scores
Scott McCarthy is studying the link between obesity and academic achievement.
By: Cindy Wolfe Boynton
November 7, 2012
How school psychologists can help students prevent obesity and, in turn, achieve academic success is the focus of a study conducted by Neag School of Education researchers and published in the National Association of School Psychologists’ School Psychology Forum.

Based on research conducted by educational psychology doctoral student Scott McCarthy for his dissertation, the study, “The Link Between Obesity and Academics: School Psychologists’ Role in Collaborative Prevention,” outlines for educators what McCarthy calls a “practical and sustainable” plan for school psychologists like himself to implement interventions such as increased regular physical activity and nutrition education that, among other benefits, can help improve academic achievement.

“It’s proven that obesity leads to physical health problems such as diabetes and emotional problems like depression, as well as to other troublesome, negative results like social isolation, being bullied, and low self-esteem,” says McCarthy, who in addition to pursing his Ph.D. works full-time as a public school psychologist in Greenwich. “The science of how weight influences students’ school performance is still emerging, but real evidence is there and as educators, we need to be concerned and begin conceptualizing what we can do to help students succeed.”
Purdue University: Scientists tracking down genes that help bees defend against mites
November 8, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University researchers are zeroing in on genes that help honeybees defend against varroa mites, one of the largest factors in bee population declines.

Varroa mites are parasites that attack honeybees and infect them with viruses that cause death. The mites can infest and kill entire bee colonies.

But certain honeybees have developed defensive behaviors that allow them to kill the varroa mites or disrupt mite reproduction. Greg Hunt, a professor of behavioral genetics, and Jennifer Tsuruda, a Purdue postdoctoral researcher, are searching for the genes that provide those defenses and believe they've narrowed the options considerably.
Montana State University: MSU researchers develop six new biotechnologies
November 08, 2012 -- MSU News Service
BOZEMAN -- Researchers at Montana State University have developed six new biotechnologies that have implications for battling bacterial infections and boosting vaccine efficacy, baking a better loaf of bread, detecting harmful microbes, preventing brucellosis, fighting neurological and inflammatory diseases, and developing bacterial vaccines.

The technologies are available for licensing to interested companies and entrepreneurs.
Ohio State University: Diabetes Study: ‘Mindful Eating’ Equals Traditional Education In Lowering Weight and Blood Sugar
November 8, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Eating mindfully, or consuming food in response to physical cues of hunger and fullness, is just as effective as adhering to nutrition-based guidelines in reducing weight and blood sugar levels in adults with Type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests.

In a comparison study of the effectiveness of the two types of behavioral interventions, participants lost about the same amount of weight – an average of between 3 1/2 and 6 pounds – and lowered their long-term blood sugar levels significantly after three months.

One treatment group followed an established diabetes self-management education program, with a strong emphasis on nutrition information. The other group was trained in mindful meditation and a mindful approach to food selection and eating. Both interventions, involving weekly group meetings, also recommended physical activity.

“The more traditional education program includes general information about diabetes, but with more emphasis on nutrition and food choice: What are different types of carbohydrates and fats and how many am I supposed to have? What should I look for when I read a food label? What are healthy options when dining out? That was the traditional diabetes education program,” said Carla Miller, associate professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University and lead author of the study.
University of Wisconsin: UW student awarded one of nation's first organic plant breeding fellowships
by Nicole Miller
November 7, 2012
The story of how Tessa Peters ended up snagging one of the nation's first graduate fellowships in organic plant breeding begins in an unlikely place: the middle of the ocean.

After earning a bachelor's degree in physics, she set out as a geophysicist, mapping the ocean floor aboard a large ship, working five weeks on, five weeks off. During her time off, she traveled widely and stumbled upon her new career path.

"Oftentimes I found myself staying on farms or talking to farmers or just trying to find out about the local food system where I was visiting – just out of my own curiosity," says Peters.

One thing led to another-a stint on an organic farm in Ecuador, a second bachelor's degree in agroecology, and finally, becoming a graduate student in the University of Wisconsin-Madison's plant breeding and plant genetics program.
If you've made it all the way through this, Happy Thanksgiving! Now, go eat!

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