Eating 150 grams of blueberries daily reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 15 percent, says research led by the University of East Anglia. The study was in collaboration with colleagues from Harvard and across the UK and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The research team from UEA's Department of Nutrition and Preventive Medicine, Norwich Medical School, say that blueberries and other berries should be included in dietary strategies to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease - particularly among at-risk groups.
Researchers wanted to see if eating blueberries had any effect on metabolic syndrome - which affects one-third of Westernized adults. This metabolic syndrome comprises at least three risk factors: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, low levels of “good cholesterol” and high levels of triglycerides. "Having metabolic syndrome significantly increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes and often statins and other medications are prescribed to help control this risk,” says lead researcher Prof. Aedin Cassidy, from UEA's Norwich Medical School. "It's widely recognized that lifestyle changes, including making simple changes to food choices, can also help. Previous studies have indicated that people who regularly eat blueberries have a reduced risk of developing conditions including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This may be because blueberries are high in naturally occurring compounds called anthocyanins, which are the flavonoids responsible for the red and blue color in fruits. We wanted to find out whether eating blueberries could help people who have already been identified as being at risk of developing these sort of conditions."
For six months, the study investigated the effects of eating blueberries daily in 138 overweight and obese people with metabolic syndrome - a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes - aged between 50 and 75. They looked at the benefits of eating 150-gram portions or one cup compared to 75-gram portions or half a cup. The participants consumed the blueberries in freeze-dried form and a placebo group was given a purple-colored alternative made of artificial colors and flavorings. "We found that eating one cup of blueberries per day resulted in sustained improvements in vascular function and arterial stiffness - making enough of a difference to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by between 12 and 15 percent,” says co-lead Dr. Peter Curtis. "The simple and attainable message is to consume one cup of blueberries daily to improve cardiovascular health. Unexpectedly, we found no benefit of a smaller 75 gram or half cup daily intake of blueberries in this at-risk group. It is possible that higher daily intakes may be needed for heart health benefits in obese, at-risk populations, compared with the general population."
Can Manuka Honey Kill Bacteria Found In Cystic Fibrosis Infections?
Manuka honey could provide the key to a breakthrough treatment for cystic fibrosis patients following preliminary work by experts at Swansea University. Dr. Rowena Jenkins and Dr. Aled Roberts have found that using Manuka honey could offer an antibiotic alternative to treat antimicrobial resistant respiratory infections, particularly deadly bacteria found in cystic fibrosis (CF) infections. "The preliminary results are very promising and should these be replicated in the clinical setting then this could open up additional treatment options for those with cystic fibrosis infections. The synergy with antibiotics and absence of resistance seen in the laboratory has allowed us to move into the current clinical trial, investigating the potential for Manuka honey as part of a sinus rinse for alleviating infection in the upper airway."
Using lung tissue from pigs, experts treated grown bacterial infections mimicking those seen in CF patients with Manuka honey. The results showed that it was effective in killing antimicrobial resistant bacteria by 39 percent compared to 29 percent for antibiotics, whilst improving the activity of some antibiotics that were unable to function effectively by themselves. Honey and antibiotics combined killed 90 percent of the bacteria tested. One problem CF patients suffer from are chronic and long-lasting respiratory infections which often prove fatal due to the presence of certain bacteria that are resistant to many if not all the antibiotics that doctors currently have at their disposal. Bacteria that cannot be removed from the lungs through antibiotic treatment can, as a last resort, be removed by providing patients with newly transplanted lungs. This has some associated risks, however, as the bacteria that caused the original infection can still be found in the upper airway, and migrate into the new lungs, thus making the transplant ineffective.
Some patients have a worse prognosis as they are infected with deadly types of bacteria, such as Pseudomonas and Burkholderia cepacia complex, which are difficult to kill due to multiple antibiotic resistance and cause extensive damage to the lungs. In some instances, merely their presence within a patient can prevent them from receiving life-saving lung transplants. The effectiveness of antibiotics against these deadly infections is a huge concern, making the need to find suitable, non-toxic alternatives, which are effective at killing the bacteria a top priority. Honey has been used for thousands of years as a medicinal product. More recently, research has shown that Manuka honey is capable of killing antibiotic-resistant bacteria present in surface wounds.
A Better-Tasting Tomato Juice
In an effort to improve the flavor of tomato juice, University of Florida scientists are using what’s called volatile capture to obtain the essence which is usually extracted from a tomato plant to add flavor or tomato essence. Juices often need to be pasteurized before they are consumed, says Paul Sarnoski, lead author of the study and an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS food science and human nutrition department. During that process, the volatiles that give a juice flavor are lost because of the thermal processing required for pasteurization. That is part of the reason tomato juice does not quite taste like a fresh tomato. Many individuals complain that tomato juice doesn’t resemble typical, fresh, tomato flavor, but perhaps, by adding an essence, we could make the juice more closely resemble fresh tomato flavor.”
In the study – published in the journal Food Chemistry - researchers used Garden Gem tomatoes which are a UF/IFAS-bred variety as the premium flavor tomato and Roma tomatoes as the control flavor. They wanted to test whether Garden Gem retained more of its flavor after pasteurization. The Garden Gem did, and was found as a suitable variety for essence production because of a high content of flavor volatiles, thus leading scientists to believe this system will provide better flavor when they test it on consumers.
Is High-Fat Ice Cream Tastier?
A team of Penn State food scientists found that people generally cannot tell the difference between fat levels in ice creams. In a series of taste tests, participants were unable to distinguish a two percent difference in fat levels in two vanilla ice cream samples as long as the samples were in the six to 12 percent fat-level range. While the subjects were able to detect a four percent difference between ice cream with six and 10 percent fat levels, they could not detect a four percent fat difference in samples between eight and 12 percent fat. "I think the most important finding in our study was that there were no differences in consumer acceptability when changing fat content within a certain range," says Laura Rolon, a former graduate student in food science and lead author of the study. "There is a preconception of 'more fat is better,' but we did not see it within our study."
The findings – published in Journal of Dairy Science - also found that fat levels did not significantly sway consumers' preferences in taste. The consumers' overall liking of the ice cream did not change when fat content dropped from 14 percent to six percent. "Was there a difference in liking and could they tell the difference was our secondary question," added Robert Roberts, professor and head of the food science department.
Perception and preference are often two separate questions in food science. "Another example of this is how some people might like both regular lemonade and pink lemonade equally," says John Hayes, associate professor of food science and director of the sensory evaluation center. "They can tell the difference when they taste the different lemonades, but still like them both. Differences in perception and differences in liking are not the same thing." Hayes added that Penn State and the College of Agriculture Sciences' focus on interdisciplinary research was critical for this work. "I think this shows how interdisciplinary and translational food science is. You take a physical chemist, a behavioral scientist and someone who knows ice cream processing and put us all together and you can investigate questions like these."
Investigating The Questions
The study may challenge some ice cream marketing that suggests ice cream with high fat levels are higher quality and better tasting products. "People think premium ice cream means only high fat ice cream, but it doesn't," Roberts continued. “Because there are only slight differences in taste perception and preferences at certain fat levels, ice cream manufacturers may have more latitude in adjusting their formulas to help control costs and create products for customers with certain dietary restrictions without sacrificing taste, according to the researchers.”
The researchers recruited a total of 292 regular ice-cream consumers to take part in the blind taste tests to determine their overall acceptability of various fat levels in fresh ice cream and to see if they could tell the difference between samples. They changed the fat content by adjusting the levels of cream and by adding maltodextrin, a mostly tasteless, starch-based material that is used to add bulk to products, such as frozen desserts - and not necessarily a healthy fat replacement alternative. "Fat is always the most expensive bulk ingredient of ice cream and so when you're talking about premium ice cream, it tends to have a higher fat content and cost more, while the less expensive economy brands tend to have lower fat content," added John Coupland, professor of food science. "We don't want to give the impression that we were trying to create a healthier type of ice cream, but, if you were in charge of an ice cream brand this information may help you decide if you are getting any advantage of having high fat in your product, or whether it's worth the economic cost, or worth the brand risk to change the fat level of your ice cream."