Posts tagged with "Diet"

French fries are the #1 vegetable consumed by toddlers

February 28, 2019

More than one-quarter (27%) of toddlers do not eat a single serving of vegetables a day, according to the latest findings from the Nestlé Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS).

Among the young children who do, French fries are the number-one vegetable consumed, based on the research results—which has been published in a series of eight papers by the Journal of Nutrition, a publication of the American Society for Nutrition.

The study—which was launched in 2002 by the baby food brand Gerber and now is conducted by the Nestlé Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland—involved interviews with nearly 10,000 parents and caregivers of infants, toddlers and preschools nationwide in the United States.

The researchers found that food choices tend to change and more nutrient gaps appear after a child’s first birthday, when most begin eating more family foods. By age two, many children have established taste preferences and eating habits that will last a lifetime, which is why pediatricians and public health experts urge parents to help their children set healthy eating behaviors early.

Other new FITS findings reveal that troubling nutrient shortfalls start early and many young children consume sweets and excess sodium:

  • Iron: The percentage of infants between the ages of six months old and one year old who do not consume the recommended amount of iron increased from 7.5% in 2002 to 18% in 2016. Iron is a critical nutrient to support learning ability and brain development. Beef and iron-fortified cereals are excellent sources of iron.
  • Vitamin D: Fewer than 25% of infants get the recommended amount of vitamin D, which the body needs for strong bones and teeth. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a daily vitamin D supplement for infants who are exclusively breastfed or receive less than a liter of infant formula per day. Similarly, about 80% of one- to three-year-old childen fall short on vitamin D. Milk and yogurt are good food sources of vitamin D.
  • Fiber: Fewer than 10% of children between the ages of 12 months and 48 months get adequate amounts of dietary fiber. Fiber is found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lentils and beans.
  • Sodium: Fully 40% of 1-year-olds and 70% to 75% of two- to three-year-olds exceed the upper limit for sodium. Processed meats such as hot dogs, lunch meat, sausage, and bacon are leading sources of sodium among young children.  These foods also contribute saturated fat to their diets.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages: About 10% of infants (between six months and one year old), 30% of one-year-olds, and 45% two- to three-year-olds drink sugar-sweetened beverages on a given day, with fruit flavored drinks being the most common.

“Good nutrition during a child’s early years is particularly critical because it sets the stage for healthy eating throughout life,” said Wendy Johnson, VP of, Nutrition, Health and Wellness for Nestlé USA, in a company release. “Exposing young children to a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, and a variety of foods and flavors, is important as children are forming their tastes and eating habits for life.”

Research contact: joshua.morton@us.nestle.com

We are what we eat: The American Gut Project

June 12, 2018

Our inner lives—from digestion to mental health—are affected by the bacteria that live in our guts, based on the first major findings of a study of the “poop” of 11,336 average Joes by researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and their collaborators worldwide. The American Gut Project, launched in November 2012, is a crowd-sourced, global citizen science effort to better understand human microbiomes—which types of bacteria live where, how many of each,; and how they are influenced by diet, lifestyle and disease.

The project—described May 15 in mSystems, the journal of the American Society for Microbiology— is the largest published study to date of the human microbiome.

“It’s really amazing that more than 10,000 people—members of the public who want to get involved in science whether or not they work in a lab or have a [doctoral degree]—have mailed their poop to our lab so that we can find out what makes a difference in somebody’s microbiome,” said Rob Knight, Ph.D., who is one of three co-founders of the research project and who also is a professor in the UC San Diego School of Medicine and Jacobs School of Engineering, and director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at UC San Diego.  The other two are Jeff Leach, Ph.D. and Jack Gilbert, Ph.D.

The researchers recruited their participants—mostly from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, but also from 42 other nations and territories—who were willing to contribute $99 as “citizen scientists.” Having done so, they then received a kit, which enabled them to collect a fecal, oral, or skin swab and then mail it back to UC-San Diego. Along with the sample, each participant answered a voluntary survey that included questions about general health status, disease history, lifestyle, and diet. They also could choose to participate in an online forum called Gut Instinct, through which they could share their lifestyle-based insights. Once the sample was processed, participants received a report that detailed specifically what was living in their guts (or other body site).

To tease out the identities of the bacteria living in a participant’s mixed sample, the American Gut Project team sequenced a genetic marker unique to bacteria and archaea. Called 16S rRNA, this molecule acts as a sort-of bar code for these microbes.

First findings

All of the data collected by the American Gut Project are publicly available, without participants’ identifying information. This open access approach allows researchers around the world to mine the data for meaningful associations between factors such as diet, exercise, lifestyle, microbial makeup and health. Among the observations that have emerged to date are the following:

  • Diet: The number of plant types in a person’s diet plays a role in the diversity of his or her gut microbiome—the number of different types of bacteria living there. No matter the diet they ate, participants who ate more than 30 different plant types per week (41 people) had gut microbiomes that were more diverse than those who ate 10 or fewer types of plants per week (44 people). The gut samples of these two groups also differed in the types of molecules present.
  • Antibiotics. The gut microbiomes of American Gut Project participants who reported that they took antibiotics in the past month (139 people) were, as predicted, less diverse than those of people who reported that they had not taken antibiotics in the last year (117 people). But, paradoxically, people who had taken antibiotics recently had significantly greater diversity in the types of chemicals in their gut samples than those who had not taken antibiotics in the past year. What’s more, the participants who ate more than 30 plants per week also had fewer antibiotic resistance genes in their gut microbiomes than people who ate 10 or fewer plants. In other words, the bacteria living in the guts of the plant-lovers had fewer genes that encode the molecular pumps that help the bacteria avoid antibiotics. This study didn’t address why this might be the case, but the researchers think it could be because people who eat fewer plants may instead be eating more meat from antibiotic-treated animals or processed foods with antibiotics added as a preservative, which may favor the survival of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  • Mental health. The American Gut Project researchers also examined the gut microbiomes of 125 people who reported having a mental health disorder, such as depression, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),or bipolar disorder. They matched each of these participants to individuals who did not have a mental health disorder, but did have other major factors in common, such as country, age, gender, and body mass index. The team found that people with a mental disorder had more in common with other people with mental disorders, in terms of the bacteria makeup of their gut microbiomes, than they did with their mentally healthy pairs. The observation held true in both U.S. and U.K. populations, in males and females, and across age groups. In addition, the research team found some indications that specific bacteria types may be more common in people with depression than people who do not have the condition.

Most of the findings emerging from the American Gut Project so far are simply observations or associations, and in many cases researchers can’t yet extrapolate the ultimate effect on human health. For example, while the researchers observed that people who eat many plants have a more diverse gut microbiome than those who don’t, they don’t yet know if increasing a person’s microbial diversity from its current level would have a direct positive effect on his or her health. However, the ultimate goal is to improve health with this knowledge.

 The work is ongoing. “The human microbiome is complex, but the more samples we get, the sooner we will be able to unravel the many ways the microbiome is associated with various health and disease states,” Knight said. “The American Gut Project is dynamic, with samples arriving from around the world daily. The analysis presented in this paper represents a single snapshot, but we want eventually to go beyond making maps of the microbiome to making a microbiome GPS that tells you not just where you are on that map, but where you want to go and what to do in order to get there in terms of diet, lifestyle or medications.”

To participate in the American Gut Project, visit AmericanGut.org 

Research contact: hbuschman@ucsd.edu

Moderate drinkers may have better chance of reaching age 90 than exercisers

February 23, 2018

People who drink moderate amounts of alcohol live longer than those who abstain—and also live longer than their peers who exercise—based on results of a long-running study by The UC Irvine Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders (UCI MIND) released this week.

Specifically, Dr. Claudia Kawas, a professor of Neurobiology and Behavior at UCI’s School of Biological Sciences, told a scientific conference in Austin, Texas, “modest drinking improves longevity.”

Indeed, The 90+ Study—which looks at the habits, diet, activities and medical history of the “oldest-old” among us—has established that elderly people who drink two glasses of wine or beer a day are 18% less likely to die early.

And surprisingly enough, that makes them healthier than their peers who exercise—who only reduce their risk of premature death by 11%, the UCI MIND researchers found.

What’s more, the researchers found, people who were overweight in their 70s lived longer than average or underweight people did.

The 90+ Study was initiated in 2003 to study the oldest-old—the fastest growing age group in the United States.  Today, it is among the largest studies of the oldest-old in the world. More than 1,600 people have enrolled

Initial participants in the UCI study were once members of The Leisure World Cohort Study (LWCS), which was started in 1981.  The LWCS mailed surveys to every resident of Leisure World, a large retirement community in Orange County, California (now incorporated as the city of Laguna Woods). Using the 14,000 subjects from the LWCS, researchers from The 90+ Study were able to ask, What allows people to live to age 90 and beyond?

 Among the findings of the study over the past 30-plus years is that more than 40% of people age 90 and older suffer from dementia while almost 80% are disabled. Both are more common in women than men.

 The 90+ Study is seeking new participants. If you are at least 90 years old and are willing to participate in twice annual visits and donate your brain to research after death, you may be eligible to enroll in The 90+ Study.

Research contact: awasserm@uci.edu