Articles

Ken Anderson Study: Free Range versus Cage

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The nutritional value of free-range versus cage-produced shell eggs has been a source of ongoing controversy in recent years. Many websites and other publications have touted the health benefits of eggs from free-range birds. However, the fact of the matter is that little scientific evidence exists to support this assertion. And a recent publication by Dr. Ken Anderson from North Carolina State University (Poultry Science 90:1600-1608, 2011) bears this out. Dr. Anderson looked at the fat, cholesterol, and vitamin content of eggs from free-range birds versus conventional cage birds. And his data indicated no difference in the cholesterol content of the eggs (163 mg per large egg for the caged birds; 165 mg per large egg for free-range birds). Similarly, the vitamin A and E content of the eggs were not affected by the conditions to which the birds were exposed. In fact, the total fat content of the free-range birds’ eggs was actually higher than that of the caged birds (the authors hypothesized that this may have been due to the relatively high-fat insects that the free-range hens had access to). A recent study in Europe (Hidalgo et al., Food Chem 106:1031-1038, 2008) demonstrated similar results (free-range eggs no better than caged hen eggs).

No doubt that this debate will continue, largely because it is so tinged with emotion. But science, well done, is free of emotion. And current science doesn’t support the notion that the manner in which laying hens are raised can impact the nutritional quality of the eggs they produce. In fact, raising birds in a more controlled environment offers the ability to better control the diet, thus raising the potential for creating even more healthy egg products in the future.

To read more, please see the press release the Poultry Science Association put out with Ken Anderson.  http://www.poultryscience.org/pr081511.asp?autotry=true&ULnotkn=true

~Mitch

School Meals Boost Nutrition and Learning

Hi Readers!  Today we have one of our Registered Dietitian Advisors, Neva Cochran, blogging.  Enjoy!

~Marcia

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I recently read an article online from the UK Daily Mail titled, “Jamie Oliver health crusade leads to fewer pupils eating school meals.” It seems the popular British chef and TV personality has not achieved the desired result from his campaign to improve the nutritional quality of England’s school meals that he deemed unhealthy.

According to the article, more than half of primary and two-thirds of secondary school students are rejecting Oliver’s “healthier” menus. Participation in school lunch is below the level it was prior to his intervention: 44.1% of English primary school kids and 37.6% of those in secondary schools ate school meals this year compared to 44.9% for both in 2004. His attempt to bring his crusade to this side of the Atlantic has been met with resistance from school districts. And, in my opinion, that’s a good thing because school meals in the U.S. are one of the best nutritional bargains around.

In July, I attended the annual national conference of the School Nutrition Association, working in an exhibit booth for one of my clients. This meeting in Nashville attracted over 3,000 school nutrition professionals ranging from registered dietitian directors of large metropolitan school district nutrition programs to women and men who work on the front lines, preparing and serving meals to kids in big city and small town schools across the country.

These are some of the most dedicated, passionate and caring individuals I’ve met in all of the many areas of dietetics practice I’ve encountered in 30+ years as an RD. And what they do is amazing. School meals must meet strict USDA nutrition guidelines for calories, fat, sodium, vitamins and minerals as well as standards for food safety. Average reimbursements rates of only about $1.60 for breakfast and $2.75 for lunch must cover food, labor, supplies and equipment costs. This is no easy feat and they do it with a positive attitude and great concern and care for the students they serve.

School meal programs increasingly serve more nutrient-rich foods and beverages, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins according to the “Position of the American Dietetic Association, School Nutrition Association, and Society for Nutrition Education: Comprehensive School Nutrition Services” published in November 2010. So rather than being the problem, school nutrition programs are the solution to providing nutritious meals and combating childhood obesity, as the results of several recent studies attest:

  • Consumption of school meals is positively related to children’s intakes of key food groups at lunch and breakfast
  • School meal program participation is associated with reduced prevalence of nutrient inadequacy.
  • School lunch participants eat fewer calorie-dense foods than nonparticipants. In fact, calorie density is highest when kids eat at locations away from home and school.
  • Participating in a school breakfast program improves daily nutrient intake and better nutrient intake is associated with significantly improved academic performance and decreased hunger.
  •  School breakfast programs improve attendance rates and decrease tardiness and, among the most undernourished children, school breakfast improves academic performance and the ability to learn.
  • There is no evidence that school breakfast or lunch programs contribute to rising rates of childhood obesity. In fact, school breakfast participation was associated with a significantly lower BMI. School breakfast participation may be a protective factor, by encouraging students to consume breakfast more regularly.

Bottom line: school meals are a great deal for kids both nutritionally and economically. They go hand-in-hand with promoting a healthy body and healthy mind that helps students feel, perform and learn better.

Increased Dietary Protein & Breakfast Consumption-Effects on Appetite, Satiety, and Reward-driven Eating Behavior

Hi Readers –  I’m honored to let you know that Dr. Heather Leidy is blogging today regarding research .

– Mitch

Two key forces exist which act against our desire to be healthy and manage body weight.  First, we have internal ‘physiological’ signals which respond to energy restriction, dieting, and weight loss and lead to increased hunger and reductions in fullness (satiety).   Many individuals respond to these signals and eat in excess, leading to the prevention of sustained weight loss and/or obesity.  We are also constantly bombarded by the modern food environment containing food-centered advertisements and easy access to highly palatable, energy dense, sugar-laden snacks.  This type of environment shifts our eating away from physiological need towards reward-driven over-eating.

To add to the problem, many Americans follow unhealthy dietary practices further intensifying these behaviors.  One in particular is the now-common habit of skipping breakfast which is strongly associated with over-eating/snacking (especially in the evening), weight gain, and obesity.  Fortunately, there are several dietary strategies that have been implemented to target and prevent both types of eating behavior.  These include increased dietary protein and breakfast consumption.

We’ve published several articles focusing on the beneficial effects of a modest increase in protein intake (1-4).   Through these studies, we found that an increase in protein consumption from 15% of daily intake to 25-30% of intake leads to improvements in appetite control and satiety(1-4).  In fact, a higher protein diet, containing lean meat and eggs, leads to increased fullness throughout the day and reduced desire to eat and preoccupation with thoughts of food throughout the evening hours compared to a normal protein diet—even during weight loss(1,3).   It is quite clear that a diet containing an increase in dietary protein, still well-within the dietary guidelines, is beneficial for appetite control.

Based on this data as well as the negative outcomes associated with breakfast skipping, we are now focusing on the daily addition of a protein-rich breakfast in those who skip the morning meal.  We recently report that  skipping breakfast leads to greater hunger and reduced satiety (i.e., fullness) throughout the morning hours, leading to a greater amount of food consumed at lunch time compared to a normal protein breakfast5.  We also found that eating a higher protein breakfast (38% of the meal as high quality dairy and egg protein, 49 g) leads to even greater benefits by further reducing appetite and subsequent food intake.

In our most recent study6, we focused on whether breakfast would actually alter food-related brain activation known to stimulate reward-driven eating behavior.  In this study, ‘breakfast skippers’ consumed meals containing either normal quantities of protein or higher protein (i.e., 40% of the meal as dairy and egg protein).  Compared to breakfast skipping, the consumption of both types of breakfast meals led to reductions in brain activation patterns in regions controlling appetite, motivation to eat, and food reward.  The higher protein breakfast led to even greater reductions in these activations compared to the normal protein breakfast.  These data suggest that incorporating a healthy breakfast containing protein-rich foods may be a simple dietary strategy to improve appetite control and prevent over-eating.

References:

1Leidy HJ, et al.  2007  Higher protein intake preserves lean mass & satiety with weight loss in pre-obese & obese women.  Obesity 15:421-429.

2Leidy HJ, et al.   2007 Effects of acute & chronic protein intake on metabolism, appetite & ghrelin during weight loss. Obesity.  15:1215-25.

3Leidy HJ, et al.  2011 The effects of consuming frequent, higher protein meals on appetite and satiety during weight loss in overweight/obese men.  Obesity; 19 (4):  818-824.

4Leidy HJ, et al.  2010 The influence of higher protein intake and greater eating frequency on appetite control in overweight and obese men.  Obesity;  18(9):  1725-1732.

5Leidy HJ & Racki EM.  2010  The addition of a protein-rich breakfast and its effects on acute appetite control and food intake in `breakfast-skipping’ adolescents.  International Journal of Obesity.  34(7):  1125-1133.

6Leidy HJ, et al. 2011 Neural responses to visual food stimuli after normal vs. higher protein breakfast in breakfast-skipping teens-a pilot fMRI study.  Obesity; EPUB ahead of Print.  doi:10.1038/oby.2011.108

“Kids LiveWell” Aims to Improve Eating Habits in Children through Healthier Restaurant Options

Family meals seem to be becoming more popular again; however they have a new face.  Many families are sitting together, but not at home. They are dining out in restaurants.   New measures are being taken to help the consumers make better choices.  “Kids LiveWell” was released this past week by the National Restaurant Association (NRA).  It is a new nationwide initiative that provides parents and children with a growing selection of healthful menu options when dining out.

Registered Dietitians assisted the restaurants in creating the choices for the kids menu and the restaurants are offering and promoting a variety of items that meet the qualifications.  The qualifying criteria are based on leading health organizations’ scientific recommendations, including the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines.

Kids LiveWell Nutrition Criteria for Full Kids’ Meals (entrée, side option and beverage):

  • 600 calories or less
  • ≤ 35% of calories from total fat
  • ≤ 10% of calories from saturated fat
  • < 0.5 grams trans fat (artificial trans fat only)
  • ≤ 35% of calories from total sugars (added and naturally occurring)
  • ≤ 770 mg of sodium
  • 2 or more food groups (see below)

Kids LiveWell Nutrition Criteria for Side Items:

  • 200 calories or less
  • ≤ 35% of calories from total fat
  • ≤ 10% of calories from saturated fat
  • < 0.5 grams trans fat (artificial trans fat only)
  • ≤ 35% of calories from total sugars (added and naturally occurring)
  • ≤ 250 mg of sodium
  • 1 food group (see below)

Entrees must include two sources & sides must include one source of the following:

  • Fruit: > ½ cup = 1 star (includes 100% juice)
  • Vegetable: > ½ cup = 1 star
  • Whole grains: contains whole grains = 1 star
  • Lean protein (skinless white meat poultry, fish/seafood, beef, pork, tofu, beans, egg whites/substitute): > 2 ounces meat, 1 egg equivalent, 1 oz nuts/seeds/dry bean/peas = 1 star (lean as defined by USDA)
  • Lower-fat dairy (1% or skim milk and dairy): > ½ cup = 1 star (while not considered low-fat, 2% milk is allowed if included in the meal and the meal still fits the full meal criteria)

Healthy Dining Finder has listed the “Inaugural Leaders” and new restaurants are going to be added weekly.   There are a variety of options for children.  Admittedly, it would have been nice if more eggs were included. Packed full of nutrients and affordable, eggs would be a great option for restaurants and parents.  Upon review, I only noted one restaurant had a regular egg option at breakfast.  The majority had egg white or substitute as related to the criteria of lean protein.  It is possible that a restaurant could include an egg if they were able to meet other criteria, but it could be difficult based on the food selection that a particular restaurant may have.

I personally see some benefits to this program.  Often the caloric content of adult meals is underestimated, as are kids meals. I think this awareness is a step in the right direction.  However from my previous experiences in working with families, I know that it often does not work for one person in the family to eat differently that the rest.  Will this help others in the family choose healthier choices?  If the adults or older teens are eating the high calorie, high fat options; what does this say to the child?  Perhaps more adults will utilize the Healthy Dining Finder website, not just for their kids but for themselves.

CFBAI Releases its Uniform Nutrition Standards

I think it’s a natural instinct to want to give your child a good start to life. In doing so, one tries to select and prepare healthy foods which will start the child on a path toward becoming a strong and healthy adult. However, the days of preparing foods from scratch are gone. Today’s parents are challenged to balance the benefits of convenience with those of nutrition and cost. Unfortunately, it’s becoming more difficult to make an informed selection in a marketplace that is stocked with foods screaming healthy claims but are not really nutrient dense.

In this regard, the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) has made a first attempt to establish uniform standards for marketing and advertising to kids by member companies. Previously all member companies had their own standards so this move toward uniform standards will give parents some assurance that the food they choose is not packed with unnecessary excesses in sodium, sugar, saturated and trans- fats. The standards affect foods in the following categories: dairy; grains; fruits and vegetables; soups and meal sauces; seeds; nuts, nut butters and spreads; meat, fish and poultry; mixed dishes; and prepared main dishes and meals, such as macaroni and cheese, with each category having its own criteria. If approved, the new CFBAI standards, will affect at least 1/3 of the products now advertised as food for children requiring them to improve their nutrient profile.

Since taste sells, prepared foods have often increased their appeal at the expense of health. This has led to a backlash against prepared foods, which have been blamed for many of our societies’ ills. In fact, it is not the technology but the competitive need to attract the largest market that is the problem. By instituting the agreement, foods designed for children will be more like the food that we would have made if we had had the time and skill to prepare them. This agreement, although not as strict as those recommended by the Interagency Working Group earlier this year, can help children to appreciate the taste of nutrient dense foods so they can grow up to be adults who appreciate the taste of simple flavors and voluntarily limit excessive intake.

 

Take a look at these other articles on the recent news:

  • ABC News: Companies Propose Curbing Junk Food Ads for Kids
  • US News & World Report: Food Industry Sets Standards for Advertising to Kids
  •  LA Times: Consumer Confidential: New limit on food ads, ‘cramming’ is costly, Spotify arrives