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Past News Items - April 2008

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In The News

US States Move to Label Cloned Food

Diet Deficient in Omega-3 Poses Neurological Risk to Infants

Black Tea Compounds May Protect Against Diabetes

Acupuncture Shows Promise in Improving Post-IVF Pregnancy Rates

Released: 04/01/08

US States Move to Label Cloned Food

When the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared in January that no labels would be required to distinguish meat and milk from cloned animals, consumers turned to state legislators with their concerns about the safety of such products. As a result, several states are attempting to circumvent the FDA ruling by introducing their own legislation calling for the labeling of cloned food products. Over the past year, bills that call for words or symbols alerting shoppers to the presence of cloned foods have been introduced in 8 state legislatures—Massachusetts, New Jersey, Missouri, Kentucky, Washington, New York, Montana, and North Carolina. None of the bills has passed.

In recent months, arguing that consumers need to have a choice whether or not to buy products from cloned animals, California state senator Carole Migden (D-SF) has reintroduced a bill that requires labels on cloned food products. Last year, the bill was passed by both the California senate and house but was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). The governor said the bill would require costly, unenforceable tracking and labeling of such products.

Biotech and livestock industries strongly oppose these state bills and claim that cloning technology will allow them to replicate the highest quality meat and milk for mass consumption. Food advocacy groups and some politicians, however, say labeling is essential so consumers can avoid products they believe are unsafe or unethical. A nationwide poll conducted in 2007 by the Consumers Union found that 89% of Americans want cloned foods to be labeled and 69% have concerns about food derived from clones and their offspring.

New state laws won't be needed if federal lawmakers revive the Cloned Food Labeling Act that is currently languishing in the US Senate. That bill, introduced originally in January 2007 by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), would require the FDA and the Agriculture Department to mandate that all food coming from cloned animals carry the following wording: "This product is from a cloned animal or its progeny."

Diet Deficient in Omega-3 Poses Neurological Risk to Infants

Pregnant women who consume large amounts of meat and little fish are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids and thereby pose possible risks to their infants’ neurological development, says a new study published in the March issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

For this study, researchers recruited 135 pregnant women and randomly assigned them to 2 groups. The first group was given an omega-3 fatty acid supplement (the equivalent of 2 fatty fish meals per week), while the second took a placebo. All the women continued to eat their regular diets.

The women's blood samples were taken at 16 and 36 weeks of pregnancy and measured for the amount of docasohexaenoic acid (DHA), a type of omega-3 fatty acids known to boost brain and eye function. After the babies were born, researchers performed vision tests to evaluate the infants' ability to distinguish lines of different widths, which measures neurological maturity in babies who are unable to talk. Babies from participants who ate lots of meat and little fish did not perform as well on the eye tests and their mothers were found to be deficient in omega-3 fatty acids.

Researchers cautioned that while this study contributes to a growing body of knowledge on the dietary needs of pregnant and breastfeeding women, more research is needed to identify recommended daily amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

Black Tea Compounds May Protect Against Diabetes

For years studies have shown green tea to have beneficial health properties; now black tea also has been shown to have some potential. Compounds found in black tea may be able to mimic insulin and help prevent diabetes, suggests new research from the University of Dundee in Scotland published in the February issue of the journal Aging Cell.

The health benefits of green and black teas have been linked to their polyphenol content—the 4 primary ones being epigallocatechin gallate, epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate, and epicatechin. Green tea contains between 30% and 40% of these water-extractable polyphenols, while black tea (green tea that has been oxidized by fermentation) contains between 3% and 10%. One reason for the lower amounts in black tea is that these polyphenols are oxidized and dimerized during the manufacturing process to form orange-red polyphenols called theaflavins.

In the new study, researchers screened dietary compounds for their ability to effect insulin-like signaling to the gene FOXO1a (also know as Forkhead box O1A or rhabdomyosarcoma) and the enzyme phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK) in the hepatoma HL1c cell line, a line that has previously been shown to faithfully model many aspects of insulin's repression of glucose in the liver. Three black tea theaflavins—theaflavin 3-O-gallate, theaflavin 3'-O-gallate, and theaflavin 3,3'di-O-gallate and thearubigins—were identified to possess novel insulin-mimicking effects.

After identifying the group of black tea compounds, the authors of the study noted that more study needs to be done to establish whether black tea polyphenols are sufficiently bioavailable to act in the body. They also suggest that these results may lead to the production of drugs or certain dietary interventions that can treat or delay the onset of age-related diseases.

Acupuncture Shows Promise in Improving Post-IVF Pregnancy Rates

A review of 7 clinical trials of acupuncture given with embryo transfer in women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) suggests that acupuncture may improve rates of pregnancy.

The review, published in the March 8 issue of BMJ, estimates that 10% to 15% of couples experiencing reproductive difficulty seek specialist fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF, which involves retrieving a woman's egg, fertilizing it in the laboratory, and then transferring the embryo back into the woman's womb, is an expensive, lengthy, and stressful process. Patients and providers have been seeking a complementary approach that could improve success of the treatment and eliminate some of the physical hardship involved.

According to Eric Manheimer of the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Center for Integrative Medicine and colleagues who conducted the systematic review, acupuncture has been used in China for centuries to regulate the female reproductive system. With this history in mind, the reviewers analyzed results from 7 clinical trials of acupuncture in women who underwent IVF to see if rates of pregnancy were improved with acupuncture. The studies encompassed data on over 1366 women and compared acupuncture, given within 1 day of embryo transfer, with sham acupuncture or no additional treatment.

The reviewers found that acupuncture given as a complement to IVF increased the odds of achieving pregnancy. According to the researchers, the results indicate that 10 women undergoing IVF would need to be treated with acupuncture to bring about 1 additional pregnancy. These preliminary results point to a potential complementary treatment that may improve the success of IVF, though researchers caution that additional clinical trials are needed to confirm these findings.

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