Can High Fiber Diet Reduce Incidence Of Breast Cancer?

Investigators at the Havard T.H Chan School of Public Health recently published a meta-analysis of prospective studies investigating the relation between intake of fiber and breast cancer incidence. Exploring 20 studies reporting the correlation between these two variables, they reported that the risk of breast cancer was reduced by 8% with total fiber consumption.

To read this study visit here: https://acsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/cncr.32816

Plant based Innovation And Role In Food Security Post COVID-19

In this video thought-leaders weigh in on how different alternate protien innovation can play a significant role in ensuring food security. Plant-based protein, cultured meat and seafood was also discussed. Join Mark Driscoll , President, Tasting The Future, Dele Raheem, Senior Researcher, University of Lapland and Daniel Blaustein-Rejto, Director, Breakthrough Institute

Perspectives On Tackling Childhood Obesity

Good food is vital to overall well being. As such, innovating food for sole purpose of driving positive change in our communities is equally important.

Childhood obesity has been described as “ one of the most serious health challenges of the 21st century”- World Health Organization. According to the Center for Disease Prevention and Control, 1 in 5 children in America are considered obese, a ratio that is triple the data reported 3 decades ago.  Obesity is a problem that predisposes to several health challenges as published by Ebbeling and colleagues 

When it comes to addressing issues like this most people assume that this will be a problem for policy makers to tackle or parents/educators or food industry leaders. Food related health challenges our society faces is not a problem for one organization, agency or individual to solve but a collective effort. 

Food industry leaders, educators, parents, policy makers, community leaders  all have a role to play in solving the problem. 

Mondelez recently announced their strategy to tackling the problem of portion control. Regardless of what you think about the effectiveness of this approach. One thing is clear, Mondelez demonstrated that the problem of childhood obesity needs to be tackled, and the food industry has a role to play in solving the problem.

Can food technology companies innovate to find lasting solution to this obesity problem?

While there may be several approaches to tackling this issues, here is my take on addressing the issue of childhood obesity along with contribution from food industry leaders and health professionals.

Food Accessibility

Accessibility is the key problem, accessibility to the right education and food said Vera Kutsenko CEO of Modern Basket. “Unhealthy food is like cigarette: having one may not be a problem but 5-10 years of continuous consumption will create a problem. For young kids, it may be necessary to get creative on how to make the food more appealing to them” Kutsenko added.

Accessibility to nourishing meals for students is the problem Revolution Foods works to solve. According to Kirsten Saenz Tobey, the CIO at  Revolution Foods – “With 1 in 2 kids in minority communities affected with Type 2 Diabetes, it is more critical than ever to ensure all students, regardless of their income status, have access to high quality nutritious meals at school. In particular, ensuring kids have access daily to a wide array of fruits and vegetables as well as whole grain rich and culturally relevant foods. Our key focus is ensuring we are supporting school leaders to provide the best possible nutrition for their students. Many of the schools with which we partner are serving the students and families at highest risk of obesity, diabetes and other diet-related diseases. Proper nutrition and healthy food can drive positive academic outcomes and can be the ultimate tool of empowerment and a key ingredient to helping children achieve their true potential”. 

Parental Involvement 

The most practical strategy for reversing obesity in America is to take control of what happens at home. Parents need to  modify what their children eat, starting when they are babies and toddlers, rather than relying on large food companies. From a very young age, babies and toddlers need to be introduced to a variety of vegetables, fruits and proteins – whole foods that come from the earth, rather than manufactured, processed, pre-packaged foods that come from a factory and are often laden with sugar, additives, and inflammatory oils. Packaged snack foods  should be eliminated entirely or, at the very least, should be in limited supply for a baby or toddler. When refined sugar and packaged snack foods are introduced at a young age, the child develops a propensity to only want to eat those foods, becoming what is commonly referred to as a “picky eater”. Picky eaters are created, not born. Practically speaking, first foods play a critical role in the likelihood of developing childhood obesity. –Sharon Brown, a nutritionist and CEO at Bonafide Provisions

Sharon Brown’s point was further supported by Melissa Mondala MD who added that “ Children should be encouraged early and often to eat foods as close to nature as possible. Foods rich in nutrients, such as vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds should be introduced while nutrient deficient foods,  processed foods, especially foods with high salt, high sugar, oil, and artificial additives should be discouraged. Physical activity with a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity should be encouraged as well.

Food Technology Innovation:

Research studies led by Byrd-Bredbenner and colleagues focused on understanding the effect of web-based homestyle intervention on encouraging parents to adjust aspects of their lifestyle such as diet and exercise supporting a healthier home environment for the children. This research was based on the premise that children spend most of their time at home and to tackle the issue of obesity innovation that promotes healthier lifestyle at home is worth exploring.

Over the summer, our team at GrubEasy Interactive worked with a group of students on a pilot test of Young Super Cook: a web application that allows students to earn points & eventually rewards for making healthier dining choices. Energized by the concept of wining rewards the students engaged in online forums to learn how to modify their favorite meals to create more nourishing options. The level of interest and engagement exceeded our expectations. When students are rewarded for a desirable behavior, they are encouraged to do more. More importantly this supports the notion that technological innovation can be employed to educate and inspire the next generation to make healthier dining choices.

Editor’s note: This article was first published by Julia Olayanju PhD on her Forbes column here

Fiber & Gut Health: Important Facts Every One Should know

Today, health management through food is a hot topic as consumers continue to look for ways to improve their overall well-being by making changes to what they eat.

According to a report published by Schieberg research: “gut health” and “bloating” are some of the popular search terms when it came to understanding the connection between nutrition and healthy living.

Google Trends analysis also highlighted this trend, showing a 200% increase in searches for phrases such as “best foods for bloating” and a 350% increase in searches for “best foods for gut health” between 2012 and 2017 in the U.S.

The growing interest in gut health is not merely hype. There is mounting scientific evidence that underscores the crucial influence of gut microbiome on obesity, inflammation and other health challenges.

Against this backdrop, I decided to interview Dr. Liping Zhao, the Eveleigh-Fenton Chair Professor of Applied Microbiology at Rutgers University. He recently pioneered a study showing that high dietary fiber promote gut bacteria  beneficial to blood sugar control. Zhao, a world-renowned scientist who has spent almost 2 decades studying the gut microbiota and gut health, was happy to share his knowledge.

Julia Olayanju: Tell us briefly about yourself and how you got into this area of research?

Liping Zhao: My background was in plant science. After my PhD in plant pathology, I decided to focus on isolating beneficial microbes in plants as biological control agents for plant pathogenic bacteria. One day in 1991, a friend came to me and asked me some questions about a specific group of bacteria called Bacillus that may be important to animal gut health. It happened that I knew a lot about this group of bacteria of interest. This led to a collaboration and we developed a probiotic formula for controlling diarrhea in young animals. This led me to start a research on animal gut microbiome. In 2004, Jeff Gordon published a paper on gut microbiome and obesity, which spurred my personal interest as at the time I was personally struggling with obesity. I embarked on personal weight loss journey along with learning process. I shed off 45 pounds over about two years with a diet which can change the gut microbiota. My research  moved to focus on studying the human microbiome afterwards.

Julia OlayanjuLet’s start with the basics, what are probiotics, prebiotics & microbiomes?

Liping Zhao: We have huge amount of diverse microbes in our guts, these microbes are collectively known as gut microbiota, they provide many functions that are important for human health. A notable example is that some gut bacteria are able to ferment carbohydrates in our diet that are non-digestible (e.g. dietary fibers) to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs nourish cells that line our guts, reduce inflammation, and play a role in appetite control. Also, studies have shown that deficiency in SCFAs has been associated with many diseases including type 2 diabetes. Many gut bacteria have the genes (and therefore the capacity) to produce SCFAs from carbohydrate fermentation. Probiotics are live bacteria that are potentially beneficial while prebiotics are nutrients that promote the growth of these beneficial bacteria.

Julia Olayanju: If there are five important things people should know about gut health what will that be?

Liping Zhao:

1. “From now on, you are no longer you but you and your microbiome”. Always keep gut microbiome in your mind. If you want to be healthy, you need to take care of your microbiome. If you take good care of your microbiome, it will support you, but if you do not, you can turn a partner for health into a pathogen for disease. Be careful with anything you take into your gut, they may change your gut microbiota in a negative way.

2.“Always ask scientifically meaningful questions when advised to take pro/prebiotics or take a new diet targeting the gut microbiota”. It is important to ask healthcare providers specific questions about dietary/product recommendations. What is the “strain” used in your probiotics?  Are their clinical trial data published to support the benefits of the product? You should be interested in knowing how to assess how your body is responding to the treatment. If it is beneficial or not.

People should not just take probiotics, they need to know how their microbiome is responding to introduction of such new species to their gut ecosystem.

3. “The fiber that works for your microbiome may not work for mine”. Each Individual has a different microbiome. Knowing microbiome differs from person to person will help people understand why some products work for some and not for others. Dietary fiber that is fermentable by person A’s microbiome may not be fermentable by person B’s microbiome. This is where personalized nutrition and data-driven nutrition comes in.

     4. “Among all the things, diet is the most powerful tool for shaping your gut microbiota”  When you eat, you are not just eating for yourself but also for your gut microbiota. All the food components that are non-digestible or un-digested will be used by gut bacteria to grow. You should make sure that nutrients needed by the beneficial part of your gut microbiota should be sufficiently supplied. One major type of such microbiome nutrients is dietary fibers. Eat more fibers but eat the ones that your gut bacteria can ferment.

5. “Gut microbiome research will transform everything in food and nutrition we know today” . This is an area that is very promising and will transform the entire nutritional field. Entrepreneurs, investors, healthcare professionals and investigators should work together to create tools/ products that will help more people understand their microbiome and maximize its benefits.

Julia Olayanju: You recently discovered that high dietary fiber plays a role in Type 2 diabetes management or treatment, can you discuss what you did specifically.

Liping Zhao: Yes, we investigated the effects of a high fiber intervention on blood glucose and metabolic health in patients with type 2 diabetes. Specifically, we randomized patients to treatment or control group. The control group received standard patient education and dietary recommendations; the intervention group was provided with a diet similar in energy and macronutrients to the controls, plus a large amount of dietary fibers with diverse structures and properties. Throughout the 12-week treatment, the intervention group experienced more significant and faster improvement in blood glucose control, greater weight loss, and better lipid profile compared to the controls. Importantly, the study showed that these beneficial effects of the high fiber diet were directly contributed by changes in the gut microbiota. We further identified a small group of bacterial strains that were likely to be the key drivers of patients’ clinical improvements: these bacteria all possess the ability to produce SCFAs, and by taking advantage of the increased dietary fibers, they out-competed the others and became dominant members of the gut microbial community.

Editor’s note: This interview by Julia Olayanju was first published on her Forbes Column here

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